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Calls To Excavate In Roscrea After Gruesome Tuam Discovery

Thursday, 9 March 2017

THE gruesome discovery of the remains of nearly 800 babies and small children in a septic tank in Tuam, County Galway, has prompted calls for a nationwide inquiry regarding other possible mass graves dating from the early years of the State, including the Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby home in Roscrea.
 A mother and baby home operated in Sean Ross from 1930 to 1970, during which time babies born in the home were offered for adoption, mostly to the United States. Perhaps nearly a quarter of all the babies born to Irish mothers and adopted by people in the United States were born in Sean Ross.
 The acclaimed film 'Philomena' told the story of the adoption of Michael A. Hess, born Anthony Lee at Sean Ross Abbey in 1952, the son of Philomena Lee. The film was poignant and humorous and traced Philomena Lee's search for her son, a journey which took her to the US.
The Angels Plot, situated in the grounds of Sean Ross, contains the graves of an unknown number of mothers and babies. A memorial event is held at the Angels Plot each July, and is attended by dozens of wellwishers, families and friends of those affected. In 2015, Philomena Lee and her daughter Jane spoke at a remembrance service for the mothers and babies of Sean Ross. The event is organised by Mary Lawlor.
The Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) Research group has also said memorials should be erected to all those who died in religious run homes, and that much work remains in terms of identifying where all of the women who died in Magdalene laundries are buried.
The group has a list of some 180 institutions, agencies, and individuals tasked with the care of women and their babies.
It was also revealed this week that the names of dead infants, almost 800 children, at Bessborough and Roscrea, two of the country's largest mother and baby homes, were given to the HSE by a religious order in 2011. Concerns over infant mortality rates and other practices at Tuam and Bessborough were raised by senior HSE personnel in 2012. A report about concerns over Bessborough deaths was forwarded to both the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs that year.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, which ran the homes in Bessborough and Sean Ross, gave the registers to the HSE when it ceased operating its adoption service in 2011. They are now held by Tusla.
In the case of Sean Ross Abbey, the death register lists a total of 269 deaths between 1934 and 1967. However, some of those buried in the plot on the site of the former mother and baby home are not listed on the register.
 Unlike Bessborough, however, marasmus is far less visible as a cause of death. In Sean Ross cardiac failure, prematurity and general sepsis were among the most common causes of death. None of the children recorded survived until their first year of birth. A total of nine women are recorded as having died, the youngest at 17 years old.
In a statement, the Order said it will 'continue to deal directly with the Commission on all such matters'.
Advocacy groups are calling for excavations to be carried out at a number of former homes around the country, including Sean Ross Abbey.

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