Four missing women may also be buried at Tuam site

Survivors’ network calls for further investigation at former mother and baby home

Survivors of the Tuam mother and baby home say that the cases of four* women who may have been buried on the site of the former Bon Secours facility must be included in any decision on the future of the grounds.

The newly formed Tuam Home Survivors' Network also says it is "very disappointed" that Minister for Children Katharine Zappone has referred responsibility for stakeholder consultation on the future of the site to Galway County Council.

Earlier this week, Ms Zappone published an expert group report which outlined a number of options for the former site of the home, where evidence of human remains were confirmed earlier this year by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

The expert group report outlined five options – from creating a memorial to continuing examinations on the site – and the Government has deferred a decision until after a three-month consultation led by Galway County Council.


The network chair Peter Mulryan said that further investigation must be carried out, as did historian Catherine Corless, whose research into the death certificates of 796 children who were at the home during a 36-year period led to the commission's inquiry.

Ms Corless said she feared the State would resort to the “cheapest option”, as in a memorial garden.

“I really feel there has to be further investigation, and that the Bon Secours should step in and pay for it,” Ms Corless said.

“There has to be accountability, whether these children died or were sent for illegal adoption abroad,” she added.

‘Unanswered questions’

The survivors’ network concurs that there are many “unanswered questions” about the 796 children – some of whom may have been trafficked abroad, during the 36 years that the home was run by Bon Secours nuns. It says the State’s own research, undertaken for the McAleese report, indicates that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” from the Tuam home.

Equally, there is no grave site for four women, among nine women recorded as having died in the home between 1922 and 1998, it emphasises.

Ms Corless traced death certificates for nine women who died in the home, and found burial records for five of them. Other women may have been sent to hospital in Galway and died there, she says. The four missing could have been buried on the home grounds, she believes.

The network notes that whereas the expert group had raised the issue of difficulties with DNA analysis of fragile newborn/children’s bones, there would be no such issue with those of adults.

The four women who have no burial records were Bridget O'Reilly, mother of a son Martin Joseph, who died of measles on May 20th, 1947; Annie Roughneen, who was 42 when she died of TB on August 13th, 1941; Annie Donoghue who died in 1951; and Mary Joyce, who died of whooping cough and cardiac failure on August 25th, 1948.

Network secretary Breeda Murphy said that the cost of further investigation should not be an issue, when weighed against the cost of State reports into abuse of children by religious organisations.

Mr Mulryan, who has taken several legal cases to obtain more information on his family, is due to attend the launch of the new network in Tuam on Saturday. He spent the first four years of his life in the Tuam home after his mother was sent there in1944. A death certificate for his infant sister Marian Bridget Mulryan was traced by Ms Corless.

*This article was amended on December 15th, 2017, to change the number of women who may have been buried at the Tuam site from five to four, based on new information from historian Catherine Corless.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times