Discovery of mass child graves in Ireland exposes Church's history of abuse

The discovery of mass child graves in Tuam, Ireland last month has reportedly exposed the Catholic Church's long history of abuse targeting unmarried mothers who marred society's conservative image.

(REUTERS / Stringer)The entrance to the site of a mass grave of hundreds of children who died in the former Bons Secours home for unmarried mothers is seen in Tuam, County Galway June 4, 2014.

Amateur historian Catherine Corless' discovery of the 796 children who died in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam from 1925 to 1961 stemmed from her childhood memories of some of the skinny kids from the same Catholic establishment, a number of whom attended the same school she did but were distant from the others. She told Reuters that she was struck that none of those dead children had records in local cemeteries, so she spent many years trying to find out what happened to the kids born out of wedlock who lived in those places.

In 2014, Bon Secours home's PR representative Terry Prone sent filmmaker Saskia Weber an email suggesting that there was no need to investigate the defunct Catholic home at Tuam. She also said the investigators would not uncover any mass grave or find signs that may point to the conclusion that children were buried at the site.

Many were surprised when Corless unearthed details of a mass grave after a government commission investigated claims of abuse by religious orders, but some were not as shocked, Al Jazeera notes.

Louise Gallagher, 44, said news about the Tuam mass graves roused an awful feeling which first surfaced after her baby was taken from her. She recalled how she got pregnant at 16 years old and was sent to a Mother and Baby home being run by nuns in Dunboyne town, where she said women were being forced to give up their kids for adoption.

"We were brought from the home into Holles Street Hospital, in Dublin, for maternity care and then the Catholic Protection and Rescue Services of Ireland who managed our forced adoptions," said Gallagher. "Everyone was taking their cut."

Mother and Baby served as state-funded homes for unmarried pregnant women in Ireland who were shunned by society. For almost a century, thousands of children residing in these homes reportedly died of malnutrition and neglect and were thrown into mass graves on Catholic Church properties.

In light of the discovery of the mass graves in Tuam, Minister for Health Simon Harri demanded the religious Orders of Ireland to give compensation to the mothers of the abused children. They were supposed to pay for half of the 1.5 billion Euros ($1.6 billion) compensation scheme for the affected women, but so far have contributed only 192 million Euros ($207 million).