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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Residents Hope to Commemorate Children after Mass Grave Find

Residents campaign for babies discovered in mass Irish grave to receive commemoration.

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Local residents on Tuesday said they hoped a campaign is making headway to commemorate the unmarked mass grave of nearly 800 babies found in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland.

The burial site was discovered under concrete in 1975 by friends Barry Sweeney and Francis Hopkins when they were playing as children.

"It was just a concrete slab, it was cracked. Myself and Francis were in here and we pulled it open, cracked it open, and there it was - skulls piled up on top of each other. Maybe eight or nine feet deep piled up. So, we just being kids at the age we were, we just ran," Sweeney said.

"And at the time we didn't realise the magnitude of what was going on - we were kids," Hopkins added.

The infants were buried without coffins in the grounds of a former Bons Secours home for unmarried mothers between 1925 and 1961.

Local historian Catherine Corless said that before the discovery, there was nothing marking the buried remains.

"This is actually a whole mass grave and they are all buried around here in this area, and no little cross, no marking, no headstone. Nobody knows who they are or what they are," she said.

A total of 796 babies toddlers and children were buried in this mass grave. Death records show the children died from malnutrition and infectious disease.

A representative from the Catholic Archdiocese of Tuam, Father Fintan Monaghan, said that it was inappropriate to judge the past from today's standards.

"I suppose we can't really judge the, I suppose, the past from our point of view, or from our lens but all we can do is to mark it appropriately and to make sure there is a suitable place here where people can come and can remember the babies that died here," he said.

The Fundraising Committee plans to engrave in stone all 796 names of the children found buried here.

"These children have nothing over them and we're not prepared to stand here as women and let them happen," local resident Teresa Killeen Kelly said.

Irish broadcaster RTE says that a small financial donation has also now been made by the Bons Secours Sisters to help the community build a memorial.

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