TAOISEACH ‘moved’ As He Pays Visit to Tuam Babies Grave
By Alison O'Reilly
September 11, 2018
Leo Varadkar made a private visit to the site of the Tuam babies’ grave on his way home from the recent Fine Gael think-in, Extra.ie can reveal.
The Taoiseach visited the grave in a ‘personal capacity’ before travelling back from Galway to Dublin last Friday – and was said to have been ‘moved’ by the experience.
It is believed he wanted to visit the site before the decision on the future of the children’s grave is decided following the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry’s report next year.
|The Taoiseach visited the site of the Tuam babies’ grave on his way home from last week’s Fine Gael think-in. Pic: Leah Farrell/Rolling News|
It was his first time at the grave; Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and Tanaiste Simon Coveney visited it in 2016.
Speaking to Extra.ie last night, Independent TD Sean Canney, who is based in Tuam, said the Taoiseach contacted him on Friday evening and told him he would like to see the grave.
‘It was very short notice, but he rang me and said he was on his way back from Dublin and that he would like to go to Tuam to see the grave,’ Mr Canney said.
|The site at Tuam in Co. Galway. Pic: Tom Honan|
‘It was a private visit, and I took the call and told him I’d meet him in Tuam and take him to the site.
‘There wasn’t a big fuss and he came along with his staff. There was no announcement or anything like that; he didn’t meet anyone there. I think he just wanted to go and see the grave and reflect on his own. He spent around 20 minutes there, and as anyone knows when they are there, it is a deeply moving experience, it is special in one way, being in the presence of the little children’s graves.
‘But it is also extremely sad what happened there.’ Mr Canney said he thought the Taoiseach was moved by the experience, adding: ‘He didn’t say much, he just spent some time reflecting on being there.
|Varadkar is said to have been ‘moved’ by the experience. Pic: Collins|
‘But it was obvious everyone there was moved by it – you can’t not be. He asked me to meet him there, so I did, but he went off and walked around alone.
‘It’s a sort of silent experience. What can you say about it all? It’s such a terribly sad story.’ Mr Canney said the Taoiseach thanked him for bringing him to the grave before departing.
Up to 796 children are believed to be buried in a septic tank on the grounds of the former motherand-baby home in Tuam.
Earlier this year, a public consultation was held and people were asked what they would like to happen to the grave.
|Engineers using ground penetrating radar on the site of a mass grave of up to 800 children at the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. Pic: EPA|
The options included a memorial and a full excavation; so far the majority of the public have called for a full excavation.
The Tuam home, run by the Bons Secours nuns on behalf of Galway County Council, was in operation from 1925 to 1961.
It was used to house ‘shamed’ women who were pregnant out of wedlock. It is also claimed some children were trafficked abroad in illegal adoptions, and that their death certificates were falsified.
The Tuam babies story was exposed in the The Irish Mail on Sunday in May 2014, and made international headlines after local historian Catherine Corless uncovered the names of the children who died there.
|The entrance to the site of a mass grave at the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. Pic: EPA|
Dublin woman Anna Corrigan also came forward, to reveal how she had only learned in 2012 that her mother Bridget Dolan had two baby boys in the home. John Desmond Dolan was born a healthy baby in 1946, but died the following year and was described as a ‘congenital idiot’ on his death cert. He is believed to have been buried in the septic tank.
Three years later, Bridget Dolan had a second child, William, who is marked as ‘dead’ in the nuns’ ledgers at the home, but is believed to have been trafficked to the US.
Speaking to Extra.ie last night, Anna Corrigan said she was very pleased the Taoiseach had visited the site. She said: ‘I am very grateful that he has gone to see where my brother is buried, I know he will have felt the sadness we all feel at how those children were treated and forgotten.
‘We in the Tuam Babies Family Group would urge Leo Varadkar to have the grave excavated; we want our siblings and families found and brought back to their mothers. My mother is buried in Glasnevin and kept her children a secret all her life. I grew up believing I was an only child, but I am the youngest of three. If my brothers are in that grave, they need to be found and given back to her.’ In 2016, a Commission of Inquiry found a ‘significant quantity of human remains’ in the grave. In a report uncovered by the Irish Daily Mail, coroner Dr Marie Cassidy wrote how the children were found in a ‘haphazard arrangement’ with ‘no evidence of coffins or shrouds’. Special Rapporteur Professor Geoffrey Shannon is compiling a report for Minister For Children Katherine Zappone on any possible violations of the children’s rights under European Law. His report is due in the coming months and is expected to heavily influence the Government’s decision on the future of the grave. There was no response from the Taoiseach’s spokesman yesterday.