John Halligan calls for Gardaí to interview surviving Tuam nuns

The junior minister wants State intervention to ensure Church groups "take responsibility for casting children into the dirt"

John Halligan calls for Gardaí to interview surviving Tuam nuns

The grounds where the unmarked mass grave containing the remains of nearly 800 infants who rests | Photocall file photo

A junior minister has called on Gardaí to interview all surviving nuns from the Tuam mother and baby home.

Training, Skills and Innovation Minister John Halligan says he wants State intervention to ensure Church groups "take responsibility for casting children into the dirt".

In a statement, he says a criminal investigation is needed as it is clear children were neglected.

He also wants the surviving Bon Secours sisters from the Tuam home to be interviewed about the post-mortem practices and burial arrangements.

The Waterford TD argued: "I will not accept that they cannot shed some light on this disrespectful discarding of innocent children's remains. And I'd be very interested in their thoughts as to why the death rate of babies at the home was double that of other mother and baby homes around the country.

He added: "There were nine mother and baby homes operating in the country and the horror stories emerging from these are no less gruesome than those at Tuam.

"Each of these homes needs to be investigated and the Catholic Church - which has to date been allowed to evade its responsibilities under the abuse redress scheme - should be held fully responsible."

Commission of Investigation

The call comes a week after the state inquiry into mother and baby homes confirmed 'significant quantities' of human remains were discovered in Tuam.

The Co Galway home operated between 1925 and 1961. It is believed several hundred children were buried at the site, and the recovered remains are likely to date from the 1950s.

Yesterday, the Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors (CMABS) again called on the Government to extend the scope of the Commission of Investigation into the homes.

Paul Redmond, Chair of CMABS, said: "We're already well done the road of completing the necessary work to include all survivors, now is the time to finally finish the task and ensure that this Inquiry is the last of the Institutional Inquiries dealing with Ireland's tortured past.

"We urgently need a face to face meeting between living survivors and the Taoiseach to make the urgent progress needed before any more of our ageing community passes away. We are dying as a community: dying for the truth, dying for Justice."

Katherine Zappone has indicated that the inquiry may be expanded, and a 'scoping exercise' is being carried out to examine that possibility.

She also confirmed that she will be publishing the second interim report of the current commission at the end of March.