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12.46 21 Jul 2018


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The President Michael D Higgins has praised historian Catherine Corless, who uncovered the Tuam baby case.

The Galway historian lifted the lid on a mass grave on the grounds of the former home in Co Galway.

Her investigation led to an excavation at the site and the discovery of hundreds of bodies.

In 2014, Ms Corless published research revealing that hundreds of babies and toddlers had been buried in unmarked graves.

The home operated between 1925 and 1961 in the Galway town.

Historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home in Galway | Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

Speaking on Saturday at the Galway International Arts Festival, President Higgins said he wanted to pay "special tribute" to Ms Corless.

"She has demonstrated not only courage and perseverance but a remarkable commitment to uncovering the truth, to historical truth and to moral truth.

"All of us in this republic owe a debt of gratitude to Catherine for what was an extraordinary act of civic virtue."

Ms Corless will speak in conversation at the festival on her work, and what work remains to be done.

On this, President Higgins said: "Those of you attending Catherine Corless' talk later will recognise that for those placed in Mother and Baby homes, the 'home' constituted a place of incarceration, of loss, of retribution, even of invoked revenge for the breaking of an authoritarian version of birth, life, the family and society".

The Tuam site

A decision on the future of the Tuam mother and baby home site has not yet been reached.

The Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said in July that a proposal for the site could not be brought to Government until a number of "complex legal, technical and operational issues" were considered.

A public consultation carried out on behalf of Minister Zappone showed that former residents of the home - along with relatives of former residents - favour a full forensic excavation.

A general view of the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home in Galway in April 2017 | Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The local community, in contrast, prefered the site not to be disturbed and for a memorial to the babies buried there be erected instead.

Members of the general public, meanwhile, were said to be 'almost equally divided' between memorialisation alone and some form of forensic excavation.

Those behind the report said it was clear opinions have 'become polarised' over the issue - and that they heard a range of "heartfelt, open, honest, angry, courageous, fearful and hurt" voices.

An earlier report from 2017 had said individual identification of remains found there was unlikely without "significant investigation."


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