In silent protest, relatives call for action on Ireland’s Tuam babies

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Dozens of people marched silently in Dublin on Saturday carrying plain white shoe boxes to represent the coffins of hundreds of babies buried in an unmarked grave at the site of a former church-run home for unwed mothers in the Irish town of Tuam.

Relatives of the Tuam babies say more should be done to recover and identify the infants’ remains and to determine how they died.

At the head of the cortege was Peter Mulryan, a man in his seventies who lived in the home until he was four and believes that his sister may lie buried among the bones of babies and toddlers found in a disused septic tank in the grounds.

An official inquiry said in 2017 that there were “significant quantities” of remains at the site, which were dated to the period when the mother and baby home operated.

According to researchers who compared the number of death certificates issued to recorded burials, almost 800 children could be interred in the grounds.

“I’ve a sister in that septic tank in Tuam and I want her, and the rest, out of there for a proper DNA test and to be handed back to their siblings,” said Mulryan.

“We want to give them the proper Christian burial they were denied.”

The discovery of the unmarked graves horrified Ireland, reviving anguish over how women and children were once treated at state-backed Catholic institutions.

The infant mortality rate at Church-run institutions was significantly higher than in wider Irish society, with death certificates mostly blaming infections like measles, gastroenteritis, bronchitis, tuberculosis, meningitis and pneumonia.

Addressing the gathering on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, Kevin Higgins, a lawyer who has acted on Peter Mulryan’s behalf, called for an inquest and post-mortems to determine how the children in the Tuam home died.

“The government has set its face against a inquest into the cause of death of each individual child. They do not want the truth to emerge. From those remains, there will be evidence, even now, of maltreatment and neglect.”

(Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Ros Russell)

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