Nuns in charge of an institute for single mothers where the burial of hundreds of babies in a septic tank has been uncovered have said they no longer hold records from the home.
The Sisters of Bon Secours, which operated the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway, said they were shocked and deeply saddened by reports of the burial of 798 dead infants from 1925 to 1961.
It was one of 10 similar homes across Ireland – three others which have little angels plots are believed to hold the remains of another 3,200 babies and infants.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has called for the religious orders which ran these institutes to release full details of all the people they took in.
In a statement, Bons Secours said it handed its records to the state after it closed its doors.
“In 1961 the home was closed. All records were returned to the local authority, and would now be within the Health Service Executive, Co Galway,” the order said.
The nuns said they are committed to engaging with Catherine Corless, the historian who identified the extent of the burials, and the Tuam graveyard committee, which is seeking a permanent memorial at the site.
The order also said it welcomes the government review of records of what happened in Tuam.
Locally it had been suggested that the burial site could date back to famine times after it was uncovered by two youngsters in 1975.
The archbishop said the practice of the mass burials was sickening: “The Gospel message is that authentic faith is measured by how we treat children who represent Jesus Christ.”