Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The ‘Social Death’ of Institutionalized Women and Children and the ‘Social Amnesia’ of Irish Society in the Twentieth Century, Depicted in Forensic Evidence from the Children's Mass Grave at a former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam

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Abstract: The twentieth century was a time of social and political changes. Victims of trauma, genocide, massacres and abuse in a largely Post-Colonial era would increasingly gain recognition and places of suffering, death and pain would become places of remembrance. Post English rule, the Republic of Ireland had many religious run institutions that, at the turn of the millennium, were under many investigations due to accusations of neglect and abuse towards its residents. One of these institutions under investigation is the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home (1925-1961) in Tuam, Co. Galway. Accusations had been made claiming that nearly 800 children may have been buried on the site of the former institution. In 2015, a commission of investigation was appointed to look into the history of the institution and in 2019 the commission published a Fifth Interim report, along with two archaeological reports, containing the information they have collected so far. In the archaeological report it had been confirmed that a minimum of 14 individuals, all children with the youngest being 35 foetal weeks, were found on the site. The archaeologists also believe that more children’s remains are still buried there. It was said that the gravesite was a mere rumor but as more evidence was introduced, more witnesses did claim to have been aware of the possible burial ground. By comparing the event taking place in Tuam with other places related to dark heritage and social amnesia, this thesis studies how Irish society today is facing this dark past and how this burial site could be hidden for over 50 years out of a social death and social amnesia perspective.

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