This week's news that at least 796 Irish babies were buried in a septic tank on the property of a home for unwed mothers sometime between 1925 and 1961 was not the first time the presence of a mass grave there had been hinted at. The New York Times reports that word of the bodies first emerged in 1975 by way of two 12-year-old boys who were playing at the site and reported that their look into a hole in a concrete slab revealed a space "filled to the brim with bones." So why did it take four decades and a determined historian to expose what may have happened at the mother-and-baby home in Tuam, County Galway? Locals apparently wrote off the remains as remnants from a workhouse that pre-dated the home, or even a relic of the 1840s famine.
Though the Washington Post earlier reported an investigation was under way, the Times indicates that's not the case: Police yesterday said in a statement, "There is no suggestion of any impropriety and there is no ... investigation. Also, there is no confirmation from any source that there are between 750 and 800 bodies present." (NBC News reports that historian Catherine Corless found only a single record of one of the children in question being buried at a cemetery.) Still, the police are being urged to open an inquiry, as is the government, with politicians clamoring for an investigation, reports the Irish Times. The one group that could possibly shed light on the situation—the Sisters of Bon Secours, which ran the home—has yet to issue a comment. Reuters reports that Ireland's Roman Catholic Church has instructed the nuns to assist with any investigation that might occur. Click for more on the story.