On Friday, officials announced they had uncovered “significant quantities of human remains” at what was once a home for unmarried mothers managed by nuns in Ireland. According to CNN, the home was operated between 1921 and 1961 by the Sisters of Bon Secours, a Roman Catholic order.
Radiocarbon dating of a portion of the remains indicates that fetuses were buried on the grounds as well as children as old as three, and that most were interred in the 1950s.
The investigation that yielded this chilling discovery began in 2014 after a local historian, Catherine Corless said she believed, following extensive research, that the remains of nearly 800 children could be buried in a mass grave on the site. Corless emphasized to the New York Times that, while she is glad for the current investigation, the deaths of these children should have been looked into “decades earlier,” and that her findings had largely been scoffed at and ignored for years.
Ireland’s mother and baby homes, many of which operated through the 1980s, were state-funded and run by religious orders. They were established as spaces where unwed pregnant women, who were highly stigmatized in Ireland at the time, were sent to give birth, usually under incredibly brutal conditions. Recently, the abuse women and children suffered in these homes grabbed international attention with the release of the movie Philomena.
Following this most recent revelation, Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland called on Ireland to fully investigate the human rights abuses that took place in these homes: “Today’s distressing revelations underline the need to ensure that this Commission of Investigation is a meaningful opportunity to finally and fully ensure truth and accountability for what happened to women and children in these institutions.”