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Nearly 800 children buried in septic tank at former Irish orphanage


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Wasn't going to post this as we all know this thread will soon get out of control but 800 dead children is way too much to ignore.

Treated just as poorly in death as they were in their short lives.

Nearly 800 children buried in septic tank at former Irish orphanage

DUBLIN -- The Catholic Church in Ireland is facing fresh accusations of child neglect after a researcher found records for 796 young children believed to be buried in a mass grave beside a former orphanage for the children of unwed mothers.

The researcher, Catherine Corless, says her discovery of child death records at the Catholic nun-run home in Tuam, County Galway, suggests that a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, of the children.

Church leaders in Galway, western Ireland, said they had no idea so many children who died at the orphanage had been buried there, and said they would support local efforts to mark the spot with a plaque listing all 796 children.

County Galway death records showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, died often of sickness or disease in the orphanage during the 35 years it operated from 1926 to 1961. The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for new houses.

A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living in the Tuam orphanage alongside 61 unwed mothers. The death records cite sicknesses, diseases, deformities and premature births as causes. This would reflect an Ireland that, in the first half of the 20th century, had one of the worst infant mortality rates in Europe, with tuberculosis rife.

Elderly locals recalled that the children attended a local school - but were segregated from other pupils - until they were adopted or placed, around age 7 or 8, into church-run industrial schools that featured unpaid labor and abuse. In keeping with Catholic teaching, such out-of-wedlock children were denied baptism and, if they died at such facilities, Christian burial.

It is well documented that throughout Ireland in the first half of the 20th century, church-run orphanages and workhouses often buried their dead in unmarked graves and unconsecrated ground, reflecting how unmarried mothers - derided as "fallen women" in the culture of the day - typically were ostracized by society, even their own families.

Records indicate that the former Tuam workhouse's septic tank was converted specifically to serve as the body disposal site for the orphanage.

Tuam locals discovered the bone repository in 1975 as cement covering the buried tank was broken away. Before Corless' research this year, they believed the remains were mostly victims of the mid-19th century famine that decimated the population of western Ireland.

Respectful of the unmarked grave in their midst, residents long have kept the grass trimmed and built a small grotto with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary said he would meet leaders of the religious order that ran the orphanage, the Bon Secours Sisters, to organize fund-raising for a plaque listing the 796 names and to hold a memorial service there.

Corless and other Tuam activists have organized a Children's Home Graveyard Committee that wants not just a lasting monument to the dead, but a state-funded investigation and excavation of the site.

The government has declined to comment. Ireland already has published four major investigations into child abuse and its cover-up in Catholic parishes and a network of children's industrial schools, the last of which closed in the 1990s.

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Well, this might surprise some people, but Vancouver hospitals used to do something similar with stillborn babies.

No they didn't throw them in a septic tank, but they would place them together in unmarked sections of cemetaries around Vancouver in a mass grave if you will. As babies arrived, they would just add them to the grave site. I only know this because it happened to a relative of mine in the 60's. A group of people started looking into this and although it took a long time, they finally got the records of all the babies and where they were located. Now they have a memorial at the site I'm talking about and many families have put plaques in remembrance of their lost babies.

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Is this the site in Mountain View cemetery? Man, I had no idea.

Treating life with such little consideration is beyond abhorrent.

That's the one. I guess you've seen it then.

Here's one article about it. Mass graves in mentioned. I hate that term. Sad, but with a happy ending.


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Effective Business Management, all just a part of the Greater Capitalist Plan .. organized religion is so gullible, and thus beguiled by the sparkle of gold .. ~ and thus endeth 'The Sermon from the Fount' ~

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Horrible. Unspeakable.

Humans are sick creatures


Lots of dead babies in a time of high infant mortality.. i'm struggling to see where the outrage here is coming from.. the church didn't kill the babies. What sick acts did the very very poor people of Ireland preform that would warrant that label.. other than being poor of course

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Lots of dead babies in a time of high infant mortality.. i'm struggling to see where the outrage here is coming from.. the church didn't kill the babies. What sick acts did the very very poor people of Ireland preform that would warrant that label.. other than being poor of course

Elderly locals recalled that the children attended a local school - but were segregated from other pupils - until they were adopted or placed, around age 7 or 8, into church-run industrial schools that featured unpaid labor and abuse.

You have nearly 800 dead infants denied a proper burial and simply chucked into a septic tank to rot and you fail to see where the outrage is coming from? Really?

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Wasn't child labor and abuse a common theme in that time period all over the world?

I admit the titled sounded bad but from what I read (admittedly skimmed a few parts) it didn't sound as bad to me. They didn't kill the kids and the outrage is simply over how they were buried?

I mean dead is dead. What difference does the burial make other than human comfort for a human made tradition?

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Another link on this:

Tuam mother and baby home: the trouble with the septic tank story Catherine Corless’s research revealed that 796 children died at St Mary’s. She now says the nature of their burial has been widely misrepresented

The deaths of these 796 children are not in doubt. Their numbers are a stark reflection of a period in Ireland when infant mortality in general was very much higher than today, particularly in institutions, where infection spread rapidly. At times during those 36 years the Tuam home housed more than 200 children and 100 mothers, plus those who worked there, according to records Corless has found.

What has upset, confused and dismayed her in recent days is the speculative nature of much of the reporting around the story, particularly about what happened to the children after they died. “I never used that word ‘dumped’,” she says again, with distress. “I just wanted those children to be remembered and for their names to go up on a plaque. That was why I did this project, and now it has taken [on] a life of its own.”

On St Patrick’s Day this year Barry Sweeney was drinking in Brownes bar, on the Square in Tuam. He fell into conversation with someone who was familiar with Corless’s research, and who repeated the story of boys finding bones. “I told her that I was one of those boys,” Sweeney tells The Irish Times in his home, on the outskirts of Tuam. “I got a phonecall from Catherine a couple of weeks later.”

Sweeney was 10 in 1975, and the friend he was with on that day, Frannie Hopkins, was 12. They dropped down from the two-and-a-half-metre boundary wall as usual, into the part of the former grounds that Corless and local people believe is the unofficial burial place for those who died in the home. “We used to be in there playing regular. There was always this slab of concrete there,” he says.

In his kitchen, Sweeney demonstrates the size of this concrete flag as he recalls it: it’s an area a little bigger than his coffee table, about 120cm long and 60cm wide. He says he does not recall seeing any other similar flags in their many visits to the area.

Between them the boys levered up the slab. “There were skeletons thrown in there. They were all this way and that way. They weren’t wrapped in anything, and there were no coffins,” he says. “But there was no way there were 800 skeletons down that hole. Nothing like that number. I don’t know where the papers got that.” How many skeletons does he believe there were? “About 20.”


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This story while not shocking is totally heart breaking for me. My aunt was one of the "fallen women" refered to in this article. Unfortuneately I agree with the headline of the article, this is only the begining. The 2 biggest forces over much of Ireland's troubled history is the English and the RCC. :(

800 dead babies are probably just the beginning

The corpses found in an Irish septic pit resulted from a larger problem.
By Martin Sixsmith June 6
Martin Sixsmith’s book, Philomena, published by Penguin Books, was adapted for the screen last year.

The former Bons Secours home for unmarried mothers in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland. (Reuters)

The discovery of a grave containing the remains of as many as 800 babies at a former home for unmarried mothers in Ireland is yet another problem for the Irish Catholic Church. The mother and baby home at Tuam in County Galway was run by the nuns of the Sisters of Bon Secours and operated between 1925 and 1961. It took in thousands of women who had committed the “mortal sin” of unwed pregnancy, delivered their babies and was charged with caring for them. But unsanitary conditions, poor food and a lack of medical care led to shockingly high rates of infant mortality. Babies’ bodies were deposited in a former sewage tank.

Sadly, the mass grave at Tuam is probably not unique. I visited the site — the home was demolished in the 1970s — and spoke with locals who remember babies’ skulls emerging from the soil around their houses. When boys broke open the cover of the sewage pit, they found it “full to the brim” of skeletons. Tuam was only one of a dozen mother and baby homes in Ireland in the years after the Second World War, all of which treated their inmates in a similar fashion.

During 10 years of research into the Catholic Church’s treatment of “fallen women” — I wrote about one of them in my book, Philomena, later turned into a feature film starring Dame Judi Dench — I discovered that the girls were refused medical attention, including painkillers, during even the most difficult births; the nuns told them the pain was the penance they must pay for their sin. In the home where Philomena gave birth, an unkempt plot bears the names of babies and mothers, some as young as 15. There are undoubtedly many more there who have no memorial.

For those who survived, the psychological trauma has endured. Philomena and thousands like her were forced to look after their babies for up to four years, bonding with them before they were taken away to be adopted. Many went to families in the United States in return for substantial “donations”; lack of proper vetting meant some were handed over to abusive parents. The mothers were told they were moral degenerates, too sullied to keep their babies. The nuns said they would burn in hell if they spoke to anyone about their children or what had been done with them.

That sense of guilt and shame remained with the girls for life. One woman whose child was born in Tuam told me she felt it was wrong of her to talk to me even now. At first it was hard to persuade Philomena to tell me her story, too. But when my book was published, she received letters from other “fallen women” saying how grateful they were that someone had had the courage to break the Omertà.

The warped code of honour behind the decades of silence had been inculcated by an all-powerful Catholic Church. For much of the late 20th century, the Irish civil authorities were in thrall to the hierarchy; Archbishop John Charles McQuaid threatened pulpit denunciations if the government contradicted his policies. So the state connived in the mother and baby homes, paying the nuns at Tuam and all the other homes a per capita rate for every inmate.

With hindsight, the church argues that it was performing a socially necessary task, helping to solve the problem of “illegitimate” children. It is true that pregnant girls would have been shunned by their families and left with no one to turn to. But the fact is that the church itself had created the problem by the stigma it attached to unmarried sex — and by its refusal to allow contraception or sex education in any form. Philomena was typical of the thousands who became pregnant through ignorance. She says she “didn’t even know which end the baby would come out.”

It is too late to bring back the dead babies of Tuam or to undo the damage done to thousands of innocent mothers and children. But there are ways that a modicum of justice could still be done. The Irish government has offered financial compensation to former inmates of the Magdalene laundries, where women were confined for reasons ranging from prostitution and sexual indiscretion to disobedience and mental deficiency. But the compensation scheme specifically excludes the far greater numbers of women — estimated to be as many as 60,000 — who suffered in the mother-and-baby homes. The state could extend the scheme.

My impression, though, is that the victims want more than money. A full and unreserved apology would help. Even more importantly, the state and church could open the records to assist the hundreds of parted mothers and children who are still searching for each other. The nuns blocked Philomena in her quest to find her son. They thwarted others whose children were taken from them at Tuam and elsewhere. That shouldn’t be allowed to continue.


I think the most shocking thing about the handling of this discovery is that it is an Irish newspaper that is paying to have an invesigation of the site with ground penetrating radar carried out.

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