Amnesty urges Ireland to launch probe into mass children's grave

5th June 2014, Comments 0 comments

An urgent investigation must be launched into revelations that almost 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, Amnesty said Thursday.

"This shocking case needs immediate attention and answers from the Irish government," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at the London-based rights group.

"A thorough investigation must be carried out into how these children died and if ill-treatment, neglect or other human rights abuses factored into their deaths."

Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home in Tuam, County Galway, during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961.

The government announced it was examining the "best means" to address the "deeply disturbing" revelations.

The septic tank, full to the brim with bones, was discovered in 1975 by locals when concrete slabs covering the tank broke up.

Until now, locals believed the bones mainly stemmed from the Great Irish famine of the 1840s when hundreds of thousands perished.

St Mary's, run by the Bons Secours Sisters, was one of several such 'mother and baby' homes in early 20th century Ireland.

Amnesty urged the government to look into the actions of all of these institutions.

"As disturbing as the 'Tuam babies' case is, it must not be viewed in isolation," said Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director, Amnesty International Ireland.

"The Irish authorities must look into possible allegations of ill-treatment of women and children in other so-called 'mother and baby homes' and other institutions run by the state or religious authorities."

Thousands of unmarried pregnant women -- labelled at the time as 'fallen women' -- were sent to the homes to have their babies.

The women were ostracised by the conservative Catholic society and were often forced to hand over their children for adoption.

The recently discovered death records for St Mary's show that 796 children died from malnutrition and infectious diseases, such as measles and TB.

Amnesty called the Irish government's response to previous claims as "minimalist" and urged it to "deal comprehensively with its past".

"The Irish Government must not view this and other cases as merely historic and beyond its human rights obligations," said Dalhuisen.

The rights group explained that if the home closed in 1961, it is possible that some of the deaths occurred at a time when the European Convention on Human Rights was in force.

© 2014 AFP

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