In 2016, test excavations at the site of a former Catholic orphanage confirmed "significant quantities of human remains" were present in the old septic system of the Catholic-run Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. The probe for such remains followed a bombshell 2014 report by a local historian that suggested some 796 children had died in the home for unwed mothers and babies over a nearly 40-year period beginning in 1925 but had no recorded burial place. The New York Times reports the government was given options on how to proceed following the identification of the remains of babies and young children, from easier and cheaper courses like erecting a memorial to the onerous and expensive task of performing a forensic excavation of the entire area. The country on Tuesday announced it has opted for the latter course.
The Times notes legislation will need to be passed before the exhumation can begin. The AP reports the underground sewage structure was found to be divided into 20 chambers, with the remains found within. Children's Minister Katherine Zappone says she is "committed to ensuring that all the children interred at this site can have a dignified and respectful burial," though the Times notes the challenges ahead: The remains found during the test excavations were reportedly intermixed to a degree that identifying individuals prior to their reburial will be no small feat. The Irish Times reports the effort could cost as much as $15 million; the Bon Secours sisters have pledged to pay about $3 million of that. The BBC notes the home itself had previously been razed. (Read one US woman's harrowing story of life in an orphanage.)