It is true, as survivors said it was. Under a small patch of grass by a playground in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, the bodies of the children who died in the local Mother and Baby home lie in unmarked graves. The Mother and Baby homes of Ireland the last of which closed in 1996 were run like punishment hostels for unmarried pregnant women. Their children were taken for adoption, fostering or the horror of the industrial schools, or they died in their thousands, of malnutrition and neglect. In some cases the bodies were used for dissection in medical schools.
This was veiled until two years ago when an amateur historian, Catherine Corless, learnt that 796 children had died at Tuam between 1925 and 1961; but where, she asked, were the graves? An inquiry was established and has now partially excavated the Tuam site. (The home has been replaced with a housing estate. Hence the ghoulish and preposterous playground.) Remains of children aged from those prematurely born to three years old have been found; Corless, then, is vindicated.
You might say that, for survivors, stonewalled and ignored by the Irish state and Catholic church for decades, denied their birth records and medical histories essentially, their identities and thwarted in their attempts to find their families, this is a victory.
The inquiry will deal with the 35,000 inmates and children of the nine homes, and a small number of associated institutions operated by various religious orders on behalf of the state plus a few county homes. Some of these orders such as the Sisters of Bon Secours and the order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary are still active, and thriving; the Bon Secours, for example, is wealthy enough to hire a public relations consultant who, two years ago, denied the existence of the burial pit at Tuam. But there is a second web of institutions that also removed children from their mothers. These included private nursing homes, public hospitals and so-called holding centres and orphanages for children who were not orphans; or, if they were, the state had made them so.
Other children were taken from private homes, or by small adoption agencies and societies. One the Catholic Rescue and Protection Society operated in the UK under the auspices of a Dublin priest. Its job was to return fleeing pregnant women to Ireland, and the homes. One woman made this journey at full term. If you seek evidence of the physical welfare of these women and their children, look only to her testimony, and the burial pits.