In a disturbing discovery revealed this week, nearly 800 children were found in a mass grave near a former home for unwed mothers and their children.
The children are believed to have been buried in a septic tank on the grounds of the home in Tuam, Ireland, between 1925 and 1961, BBC News reports. Many appear to have perished from infectious diseases or malnutrition.
The gruesome discovery was made by two boys who stumbled across the unmarked grave when they were playing near the site of St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, which has since been converted into a housing estate.
Now, officials in Ireland are scrambling to determine how to proceed. While leaders in the Catholic Church are meeting to discuss plans for a memorial for the 796 children, Ciaran Cannon, minister of state in Ireland’s Department of Education, is calling for an inquiry into the mass grave.
“The evidence to date seems to suggest that something very horrific went on there,” Cannon told the Irish Independent. “Let’s try and determine exactly what happened here first of all. Surely, there are people alive who have a connection with the place. I do think an inquiry is required.”
Meanwhile, local historian Catherine Corless has delved into the troubled history of “The Home,” a workhouse that was turned into a home for mothers and their babies in 1925 by the Sisters of Bon Secours. When Corless sought out the death certificates for the children in the mass grave, she learned there were 796 deceased, ranging from infants to 9-year-olds.
“There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961,” Corless told IrishCentral.
She is leading a campaign to raise funds for a memorial that will list the names of all the children.