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Tuam babies: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin calls for inquiry

The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway Image copyright PA
Image caption People initially thought the grave was for remains of famine victims

One of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church in Ireland has said a full inquiry is needed into the deaths of almost 800 children at a convent-run mother and baby home.

The children, one as old as nine, died between 1925 and 1961.

The remains of some children were found in a concrete tank in County Galway, 40 years ago.

The grave in Tuam was initially thought to date to the 1850s.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the truth must come out.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said a full investigation was needed

"The indications are that if something happened in Tuam, it probably happened in other mother and baby homes around the country," Dr Martin told RTÉ radio.

"That's why I believe we need a full-bodied investigation.

"There's no point investigating just what happened in Tuam and then next year finding out more.

"We have to look at the whole culture of mother and baby homes; they're talking about medical experiments there."

He added: "They're very complicated and very sensitive issues, but the only way we will come out of this particular period of our history is when the truth comes out."

Image copyright Tuam Home Graveyard Committee
Image caption The home was run by nuns between 1925 and 1961
Image copyright PA
Image caption The unmarked grave is in the grounds of a home which was run by the Catholic Church

The Irish government has set up an inter-departmental group to look at the case.

The home was run by nuns of the Bon Secours Sisters for 36 years.

In a statement, Bon Secours said it handed its records to the state after it closed its doors.

The Tuam home was one of 10 institutions in which about 35,000 unmarried pregnant women - so-called fallen women - are thought to have been sent.

County Galway death records showed that most of the children buried in the unmarked grave had died of sickness or malnutrition.

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