How can nearly 800 babies born to unwed mothers at one Catholic-run care home in the West of Ireland simply disappear? The Missing Children explores the extraordinary story.
“When babies can’t be accounted for, you know there’s a lie behind it. And therefore you can only assume that the situation, the final situation, is likely to be worse than what we already know.”
So says one of the interviewees in The Missing Children, a true-crime docuseries that tells the heart-wrenching story of what happened to so many babies born to unwed mothers in Ireland between 1922 and 1998. It focuses specifically on the ones who began their lives at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, closed in 1961, in the town of Tuam.
The three-part program features archival photos and footage, and interviews with journalists, a former advisor to the Irish government, a human rights lawyer, a human osteoarchaeologist and forensic archaeologists, survivors of the home in Tuam, and relatives of children who died there.
The story of The Missing Children has its beginnings with one woman, Catherine Corless, a local historian and a resident of Tuam, located about 25 kilometers outside the city of Galway. When she began researching what happened to the children at the home, she had no idea she would end up uncovering a story so huge that it would become a national, if not international, scandal.
According to county records in Galway, 796 children died at the Tuam home — but while death records existed for them, burial records did not. If the deceased children weren’t buried, as required by law, then what happened to them?
“We’re talking about the worst human rights violation imaginable.”
The answer was made public in a shocking exposé by journalist Allison O’Reilly, later confirmed by a test excavation: “a significant number” of human remains were found on the grounds of the mother and baby home in Tuam — in a sewage tank.
But there is still more to the story — from the hypocrisy and corruption within the Catholic Church, and what appears to be collusion and cover-up on the part of the Irish government, to the vast numbers of unwed mothers who were incarcerated in mother and baby homes across Ireland during that 76-year period, and the tens of thousands of children who were forcibly separated from their mothers.
Some of the latter appear in The Missing Children — men and women, now living in Ireland, the UK, and the US, who survived the cruelty and abuses of the Bon Secours nuns at the home in Tuam. Their stories are shattering. And demanding of the whole truth.
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