Wednesday, July 16, 2014

‘Definite physical indications’ found at Bessborough of possible shallow graves

A leading archaeologist said there are "definite physical indications" there could be unmarked shallow graves in the grounds of the Bessborough mother and baby home.
Toni Maguire completed a basic examination of the Cork City site yesterday with four women born at the Cork home — two of whom had travelled from the US. A study of General Registration Office and Department of Health records by the Adoption Rights Alliance suggests up to 1,000 mothers and their babies may have died there over several decades.
Toni Maguire said she would “really like to complete full geophysical examinations” on the short avenue that runs from the Bessborough grotto to the formal Little Angels plot.  READ MORE HERE

Published on Jul 16, 2014 Irish Examiner journalist Claire O'Sullivan speaks to consultant archeologist and anthropologist Toni Maguire about unmarked graves she believes could lie beyond Bessborough's angel plot and perimeter

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Submissions on what should be covered by any Investigation into Institutional Marginalised Burial - from Toni Maguire

The revelations surrounding the death and potential burial of infants and children at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway has resonated around the world and shocked our global community. We protest at the horror of it and demand justice for those who were the most vulnerable in Irish society at a time when such violation of basic civil rights could be inflicted with out associated accountability from either society, state or church.  However this is not an isolated incident but was in fact a wide spread practice to my personal knowledge, until at least the 1990's. Marginalised infant and adult burial in unmarked mass inhumation graves is an issue which has impacted over time on the different religious and cultural traditions of our society across Ireland.

The work I have done in Northern Ireland over the past years has focused on the issue of exactly this type of marginalised burial and the plight of those souls disposed of in this unsanctified and anonymous way. However the nature of the research into these areas of burial ground has raised other questions which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, ultimately that of identification and protection for these sites within a legal framework which also encompasses all locations considered to be Private Cemeteries.  In other words any area of burial ground in Ireland attached to chapel, church or meeting house, including religious cemeteries and establishments, institutional burial grounds, workhouse cemeteries, poor ground, mental hospitals and what has been regarded in the past as industrial schools; for these locations there is little or no legal protection and the religious institutions responsible can treat the land and all those buried there as they chose.

An example of how much is recoverable from research of such sites is reflected in my work into the Milltown Cemetery site in Belfast.  Here we recovered 6.28 acres which contained the remains of at least 11,000 children and adults buried together in unmarked, mass inhumation graves. While this number seems unbelievable, it is in no way the true number of those buried at this location as the impact of undocumented infant burial added to open Poor Ground graves and Cillini burials across The Bog Meadows, conducted  under cover of darkness, could easily double that bottom line.

Taking all this on board, there are a number of measures which need to be considered to allow for the systematic investigation of the Tuam site and all subsequent sites affected by marginalised burial.

ñ Investigation and cross referencing of all documentation from church and state in relation to the all individuals (Children and adults) admitted over time to the institutions under investigation, taking into account their various phases and nature of occupation.
     (Admission books and letters of admission from church, family or state).

ñ Records of all children born at such institutions.
   (Access to all birth registers for the institutions and cross referenceing with state records – What happened to these children – What was the situition in relation to Stillborns? i.e. Northern Ireland had no records in relation to stillborn infants prior to 1962 – No birth or death certificates exist for these children.  After 1962 a register was kept by the government and a certificate of 'Stillbirth' can now be obtained by the family)

ñ Records of children and adults who died while in the care of the institutions, or in hospitals while still resident at the institution in question.
    (Date and causes of death - Consider also any and all associated reports from inspectors, medical practitioners including hospital records etc).

ñ Desktop investigation of all historic and current maps and leases to determine the original extent of the site and any indication of areas of burial, either inside or outside the institutional boundary, associated with the different phases of occupation i.e., workhouse, mother and baby home.
     (Has the boundary changed over time and to what extent?)

ñ On site survey of location and associated land by qualified scientists and researchers to determine the extent of any and all areas of burial highlighted by the desktop survey. (Archaeologists, geophys historians etc.)

ñ Identification of areas of interest for further investigation and excavation to establish the presence or absence of human remains at a number of locations
             (Test trenches – Location of which are to be determined after all lines of investigation have been               
             considered including ethnographic evidence)

ñ Retrieval of those human remains at the Tuam site believed to be present in underground chamber/ tunnel (Non-earth burials) for forensic analyses.
     (Example of the type of information that could potentially be determined through forensics analysis    
     listed below)

ñ Determine any damage or destruction of all or any areas of burial due to development of the site and associated land.
     (Are the houses at Tuam built on burial ground – Potentially famine graves?)

ñ Consultation of options for commemoration for all those buried at the site with surviving relatives and local population.
    (Consideration must be given to where any memorial should be cited i.e. where no damage can be caused to identified graves)

ñ Produce report.
     (Report must be available to the public)

Example of Retrievable Information from Forensic Analysis of Skeletal Remains from the Tuam Site.
ñ  A forensic or dental anthropologist will be able to tell with near certainty, whether or not an infant was stillborn using the neonatal line. The neonatal line is a type of hypoplastic lesion that is thought to occur when the stress of childbirth interrupts the enamel secretion. If an infant survived birth and by at least seven to ten days afterward, the neonatal line will be visible under an ordinary light microscope. If, however, the infant was stillborn or died shortly after delivery, the neonatal line will not appear.
ñ  A forensic archaeologist or dental anthropologist will be able to find evidence of systemic physiological stress such as disease and malnutrition in both children and adults by examining yet another type of hypoplastic lesion called linear enamel hypoplasia, or LEH.  LEH are areas of unusually thin enamel deposits that appear as linear indentations across the anterior teeth.
ñ  When teeth are developing, the enamel is formed in a daily rhythm. Consequently, forensic archaeologists are able to pinpoint how old an individual was at the time a stress episode occurred (i.e., how old was the child was he/she was malnourished? - How old was the child when he/she was ill?)   To do this, one simply locates the neonatal line and counts the number of perikymata between the neonatal line and the LEH. The number is approximately the number of days between birth and the stress episode.
The Need for New Legislation to Protect Burial Ground in Private Cemeteries.
The issue of current limited legislation in relation to Private Cemeteries has resulted in the reduced scrutiny of the procedures and accountability of management for a large number of these unmarked burial grounds which include areas of unmarked Poor Ground, institutional burial ground such as the Magdalene Laundries and Cillini (Children's Burial grounds).
Recent investigation into the sale of burial ground by the Trustees of Milltown Cemetery in 2000 with full and certain knowledge that the ground contained burials, has highlighted the fragility of protection for such locations as the land contained a number of acres which had been used for the burial of approximately 11,000 unbaptised infants, children and adults in unmarked mass inhumation graves.
The survey of such areas of burial ground, either within the confines of established cemeteries (Private or council) or at isolated locations within the landscape would at least recognise their existence and systematic excavation of sites would help to establish the extent and nature of the burials they contain.  In this way the previous loss and destruction which has been a factor of institutional burial ground and Cillini in the past may be prevented in the future and an important aspect of the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland communities will be preserved.
Another aspect of this problem is the 'Gate Keeper' mentality of those who control the general information and documentation of burials in private cemeteries.  This is an unsatisfactory situation which has recently resulted in the exacerbation of a difficult situation in relation to the Milltown Cemetery site and which have actively hamper research by families and their consultant in an effort to resolve the extent of the burial ground extending into the Bog Meadows.
This behaviour is morally and religiously reprehensible and demonstrates the need to take ultimate control over the future protection of such burial grounds and place it firmly in the hands of  government departments and local council authorities within a legal framework.
Only when all these measures and any others considered applicable by the archaeological survey and research teams have been implimented, including forensic analysis, will we understand what truly happened at Tuam and other similar institutions to be investigated.  In this way we can analysis the data collected and identify the presence (Or absence) of  systemic patterns of care/neglect at these institutions.
I have worked in this area of archaeology now for a number of years and been responsible for the identification of new and new archaeological sites and previously unidentified associated areas of marginalised burial at existing sites within Northern Ireland.
I have not been asked to consult on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home, but I would be willing to assist with the consultation if needed. I have however been asked to act as consultant for families in connection with the Sean Ross and Bessboro Mother and Baby Homes in relation to finding areas of marginalised burial and will be in the South of Ireland for this reason from the 16th to the 21st of July if further meeting and discussion with government departments on my previous work and research would be helpful.
Toni Maguire BSc. MA.
Archaeologist / Anthropologist

Ph: +447912570754

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Thousand Philomenas - Face the Facts BBC Radio 4

A Thousand Philomenas - Face the Facts BBC Radio 4

The film Philomena starring Dame Judi Dench brought the scandal of Ireland's mother and baby homes to the wider world. Claims that children's bodies were dumped in a septic tank at a home in Tuam have focussed fresh scrutiny on the issue. But what about north of the border in the UK? Face the Facts looks at allegations of forced adoptions, high infant death rates, mass graves and the search for answers from Catholic-run institutions in Northern Ireland. And hears from the mothers still trying to find the children taken from them.
Producer:Paul Waters
Presenter:John Waite
Editor:Andrew Smith.