Baby remains found in sewers of former Church-run home for unmarried mothers

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DUBLIN, March 3 (Reuters) - The remains of babies, ranging from newborn to three-years-old, have been found in the sewers of a former Church-run home for unmarried mothers in Ireland, the government said on Friday.

A report from an inquiry the government ordered in 2014 backed up a historian's claim that up to 800 children may lie in an unmarked grave at the home. It said: "significant quantities of human remains have been discovered in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers which were examined."

Radiocarbon dating found the remains, which ranged from 35-week-old fetuses to 3-year-olds, dated from between 1925 and 1961, when the home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters.

Photos from the home:

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Baby remains found at former home for unmarried moms
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Baby remains found at former home for unmarried moms
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. Local residents on Tuesday said they hoped a campaign is making headway to commemorate the unmarked mass grave of nearly 800 babies found in Tuam. The infants were buried without coffins in the grounds of a former home for unmarried mothers between 1925 and 1961. A total of 796 babies toddlers and children were buried in this mass grave. Death records show the children died from malnutrition and infectious disease. REUTERS/Stringer (IRELAND - Tags: OBITUARY HEALTH)
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. Local residents on Tuesday said they hoped a campaign is making headway to commemorate the unmarked mass grave of nearly 800 babies found in Tuam. The infants were buried without coffins in the grounds of a former home for unmarried mothers between 1925 and 1961. A total of 796 babies toddlers and children were buried in this mass grave. Death records show the children died from malnutrition and infectious disease. REUTERS/Stringer (IRELAND - Tags: OBITUARY HEALTH)
This picture shows a shrine in Tuam, County Galway on June 9, 2014, erected in memory of up to 800 children who were allegedly buried at the site of the former home for unmarried mothers run by nuns. Up to 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, new research showed, throwing more light on the Irish Catholic Church's troubled past. Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows a shrine in Tuam, County Galway on June 9, 2014, erected in memory of up to 800 children who were allegedly buried at the site of the former home for unmarried mothers run by nuns. Up to 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, new research showed, throwing more light on the Irish Catholic Church's troubled past. Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows a plaque at shrine in Tuam, County Galway on June 9, 2014, erected in memory of up to 800 children who were allegedly buried at the site of the former home for unmarried mothers run by nuns. Up to 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, new research showed, throwing more light on the Irish Catholic Church's troubled past. Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows a shrine in Tuam, County Galway on June 9, 2014, erected in memory of up to 800 children who were allegedly buried at the site of the former home for unmarried mothers run by nuns. Up to 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, new research showed, throwing more light on the Irish Catholic Church's troubled past. Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows a shrine in Tuam, County Galway on June 9, 2014, erected in memory of up to 800 children who were allegedly buried at the site of the former home for unmarried mothers run by nuns. Up to 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, new research showed, throwing more light on the Irish Catholic Church's troubled past. Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Schoolchildren pay their respects at a shrine in Tuam, County Galway on June 9, 2014, erected in memory of up to 800 children who were allegedly buried at the site of the former home for unmarried mothers run by nuns. Up to 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, new research showed, throwing more light on the Irish Catholic Church's troubled past. Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
GALWAY, IRELAND - JUNE 07: The site of the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of 796 children of St. Mary's Mother and Baby Home on June 7, 2014 in Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland. Ms Catherine Corless, a local historian in the Tuam area, recently published an article in a regional historical journal about her research into the death records for 796 children who had died at 'The Home' during its years of operation. She believed that many of the children had been buried in an area at the rear of the site that also included the facility's septic tank. The Tuam grave was discovered in 1975 by two local boys playing at the site. Prayers were said and the tank was sealed with no one aware of the sheer scale of bodies involved. It was not until Ms Corless requested records of children's deaths that the extent of the tragedy was revealed. St. Mary's Mother and baby home was a maternity home for unmarried mothers and their children that operated between 1925 and 1961 and was run by the sisters of the Bon Seceurs. The remains of the youngsters were interred in a concrete septic tank in the grounds of a home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961. Documents discovered by Catherine Corless show the children may have died of starvation and neglect. It states the children died from amongst other things malnutrition, measles and pneumonia. Hundreds of children were believed to have died at the home over the course of almost 40 years. They were buried without any coffin or memorial and simply wrapped in a plain shroud. (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
GALWAY, IRELAND - JUNE 07: The site of the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of 796 children of St. Mary's Mother and Baby Home on June 7, 2014 in Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland. Ms Catherine Corless, a local historian in the Tuam area, recently published an article in a regional historical journal about her research into the death records for 796 children who had died at 'The Home' during its years of operation. She believed that many of the children had been buried in an area at the rear of the site that also included the facility's septic tank. The Tuam grave was discovered in 1975 by two local boys playing at the site. Prayers were said and the tank was sealed with no one aware of the sheer scale of bodies involved. It was not until Ms Corless requested records of children's deaths that the extent of the tragedy was revealed. St. Mary's Mother and baby home was a maternity home for unmarried mothers and their children that operated between 1925 and 1961 and was run by the sisters of the Bon Seceurs. The remains of the youngsters were interred in a concrete septic tank in the grounds of a home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961. Documents discovered by Catherine Corless show the children may have died of starvation and neglect. It states the children died from amongst other things malnutrition, measles and pneumonia. Hundreds of children were believed to have died at the home over the course of almost 40 years. They were buried without any coffin or memorial and simply wrapped in a plain shroud. (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
GALWAY, IRELAND - JUNE 07: The site of the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of 796 children of St. Mary's Mother and Baby Home on June 7, 2014 in Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland. Ms Catherine Corless, a local historian in the Tuam area, recently published an article in a regional historical journal about her research into the death records for 796 children who had died at 'The Home' during its years of operation. She believed that many of the children had been buried in an area at the rear of the site that also included the facility's septic tank. The Tuam grave was discovered in 1975 by two local boys playing at the site. Prayers were said and the tank was sealed with no one aware of the sheer scale of bodies involved. It was not until Ms Corless requested records of children's deaths that the extent of the tragedy was revealed. St. Mary's Mother and baby home was a maternity home for unmarried mothers and their children that operated between 1925 and 1961 and was run by the sisters of the Bon Seceurs. The remains of the youngsters were interred in a concrete septic tank in the grounds of a home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961. Documents discovered by Catherine Corless show the children may have died of starvation and neglect. It states the children died from amongst other things malnutrition, measles and pneumonia. Hundreds of children were believed to have died at the home over the course of almost 40 years. They were buried without any coffin or memorial and simply wrapped in a plain shroud. (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
GALWAY, IRELAND - JUNE 07: The site of the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of 796 children of St. Mary's Mother and Baby Home on June 7, 2014 in Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland. Ms Catherine Corless, a local historian in the Tuam area, recently published an article in a regional historical journal about her research into the death records for 796 children who had died at 'The Home' during its years of operation. She believed that many of the children had been buried in an area at the rear of the site that also included the facility's septic tank. The Tuam grave was discovered in 1975 by two local boys playing at the site. Prayers were said and the tank was sealed with no one aware of the sheer scale of bodies involved. It was not until Ms Corless requested records of children's deaths that the extent of the tragedy was revealed. St. Mary's Mother and baby home was a maternity home for unmarried mothers and their children that operated between 1925 and 1961 and was run by the sisters of the Bon Seceurs. The remains of the youngsters were interred in a concrete septic tank in the grounds of a home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961. Documents discovered by Catherine Corless show the children may have died of starvation and neglect. It states the children died from amongst other things malnutrition, measles and pneumonia. Hundreds of children were believed to have died at the home over the course of almost 40 years. They were buried without any coffin or memorial and simply wrapped in a plain shroud. (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
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The inquiry was launched after a local historian said there was evidence of an unmarked graveyard at the home, where records showed almost 800 children died between 1925 and 1961.

The Church ran many of Ireland's social services in the 20th century, including mother-and-baby homes where tens of thousands of unmarried pregnant women, including rape victims, were sent to give birth.

Unmarried mothers and their children were seen as a stain on Ireland's image as a devout Catholic nation. They were also a problem for some of the fathers, particularly powerful figures such as priests and wealthy, married men.

Government records show that in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the mortality rate for "illegitimate" children was often more than five times that of those born to married parents. On average, more than one in four children born out of wedlock died.

In 2014, the Archbishop of Dublin said that "if something happened in Tuam, it probably happened in other mother-and-baby homes around the country." The commission is investigating 17 other church-run institutions.

Ireland's Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said Friday's news was "sad and disturbing," adding that the commission of inquiry would work with local authorities to investigate further and decide what should happen to the remains.

The commission did not say how many babies' remains were recovered or how many might still be buried in what are believed to be the home's sewage and/or waste water treatment system.

Ireland's once powerful Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of scandals over the abuse and neglect of children. The Archbishop of Tuam said in 2014 he was horrified and saddened by the historian's discovery. (Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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