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Irish authorities excavate mass infant grave at former home for unwed mothers

Irish authorities on Friday reported the discovery of "significant quantities of human remains" in 17 "underground chambers" in a structure that appears to have been originally constructed for wastewater treatment. The remains analyzed so far belong to infants and toddlers ranging in age from apparent premature births to 3 years.

Carbon dating has placed the remains between 1925 and 1961, the time period during which the property where the mass grave was found was operated as a home for unwed mothers, the Mother and Baby Home, by the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours.

Allegations that a mass grave might exist were first raised in 2014 by Catherine Corless, a historian in the town of Tuam, where the grave was discovered. Corless' research indicates as many as 800 bodies may be present. "If you look at the records, babies were dying two a week," Corless said when she presented her findings. A Tuam local recalled that the children in the home were "usually gone by school age — either adopted or dead."

After authorities' announcement of the discovery, The Irish Times reported the account of a woman named Mary Moriarty who said she visited the site in 1975 and saw a child who "had a skull on a stick, shaking it." Moriarty also said she was walking on the property when part of the ground collapsed. Underneath, she saw what she then believed to be bottles "rolled up in a cloth and they were all piled on top of each other like sausages." A woman working nearby said she had actually observed "little baby graves."