Excavations have begun at the site of a former Catholic orphanage where, it was revealed in 2014, nearly 800 babies and children allegedly died between 1925 and 1961. It was initially alleged that their bodies were dumped in a septic tank, and authorities have now found a mass grave. The underground structure has 20 chambers and contains "significant quantities of human remains," authorities say. They describe the structure as appearing "to be related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water" and say DNA analysis done on selected remains found in it revealed that they ranged in age from 35 weeks fetal gestation to three years old. A government official says the families of the children whose remains are found will be notified and their remains treated "appropriately."
The Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, was run by Catholic nuns and provided shelter to unwed pregnant women, orphans, and unwed mothers and their children. It was previously reported that the children died from a variety of maladies including "malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia." The Guardian reports that the practice of burying children in unmarked graves was common at such homes at the time, a period where child mortality rates were high. Per the Irish Times, authorities say they will continue investigating who was responsible for handling the bodies; Amnesty International is pushing for a full investigation into possible human rights abuses. The Bon Secours sisters say in a statement that they are cooperating with the investigation. The Journal has testimony from former residents of the home, one of whom says it was a "prison." (Read more mass graves stories.)