Agonizing Question for Irish: What to Do With Children’s Remains?

New York Times

January 13, 2018

By Dan Barry

[Note: See also Barry’s The Lost Children of Tuam, October 28, 2017; the brief (11-minute) NY Times documentary 796 Irish Children Vanished. Why? by Kassie Bracken et al., October 28, 2017; a list of the 796 children; Catherine Corless, The Home, her original investigation, published in the Journal of the Old Tuam Society, Vol. 9, 2012; the Expert Technical Group Report on the Tuam Site with updates; and the website of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.]

A few years ago, an amateur historian shook Ireland to its core with a ghastly allegation: Hundreds of bodies of young children appeared to have been buried in an abandoned septic system by Catholic nuns who for decades had managed a home for unwed mothers and their offspring in the County Galway town of Tuam.

Then, early last year, investigators confirmed that many commingled human remains have been found in just a single corner of the seven-acre site, where a subsidized housing project had long since replaced the old mother-and-baby home.

Amid the many emotional reactions that followed was one particularly painful question: What should be done with the juvenile remains in the ground?

Last month, a team of forensic experts assembled by Katherine Zappone, Ireland’s minister for children, issued a report that presented several possible answers, but not before noting the “unprecedented” challenges.

“The group has not identified any directly comparable cases, either nationally or internationally, that involved the complexities of commingled juvenile human remains, in significant quantities and in such a restricted physical location,” the report said.

* * *

The report’s suggestions have offended the likes of Peter Mulryan, who spent the first few years of his life in the Tuam home and was eventually handed over to a foster father who beat and exploited him. He learned, only recently, that he had a half sister who died at the home in 1950s and that her remains, presumably, are commingled in the site’s unconsecrated ground.

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