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archaeologist’s claims National Children’s Hospital dismisses claims children’s graves could be buried on grounds

John Gilroy, an archaeologist that has extensively researched records of The Foundling Hospital has said there is a high likelihood of a mass grave on the site

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John Gilroy said the high death rate at the Foundling Hospital means there is a high likelihood of a mass grave at the site.

John Gilroy said the high death rate at the Foundling Hospital means there is a high likelihood of a mass grave at the site.

John Gilroy said the high death rate at the Foundling Hospital means there is a high likelihood of a mass grave at the site.

National Children’s Hospital has dismissed an archaeologist’s claims that the bodies of tens of thousands of infants could be buried on or near the grounds of the hospital site in Dublin. 

John Gilroy, an archaeologist that has extensively researched records of The Foundling Hospital - an institution for abandoned children which stood on the site of the new children’s hospital - has said there is a high likelihood of a mass grave on the site.

A previous environmental impact study conducted at the site in search of evidence of a paupers’ grave and workhouse found no evidence of any graves on the site.

Due to the very high death rate of infants at the hospital, Mr Gilroy believes a mass grave is highly likely to be located on the site.

Death rates were so high, Mr Gilroy told the Irish Examiner in an interview that it “bordered on corporate-engineered genocide”.

Records show that between 1790 and 1796, 5,216 children were sent to the hospital and just three survived.

Between 1796 and 1926, 52,150 children entered the hospital and 41,524 of them died there.

A spokesperson for the new National Children’s Hospital said that “no evidence of archaeological significance or human remains has been found” as part of either the planning process or during the current construction phase of the new children’s hospital.

“In April 2016, An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the construction of a new children’s hospital on the shared campus with St. James’s Hospital.

"This followed extensive research into past uses of the 12-acre site on which the new children’s hospital is being constructed, as detailed in the Archaeological Heritage chapter of the Environmental Impact Statement submitted with the planning application. Archaeological Heritage was also discussed at the three-week An Bord Pleanála oral hearing during the planning process.

“During the site clearance, demolition and excavation works, an archaeologist was also appointed to the project as was required under the granted planning permission.

"The excavation works were completed on the whole site of the new children’s hospital in 2019, and there were no findings of archaeological significance or human remains then, or since,” the spokesperson said.

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Mr Gilroy said the reports from the Inspector of Foundlings’ “tells the deeply disturbing history of Dublin’s foundling hospital.”

“I wish to point out that much of what is contained in the report makes for very distressing reading.

“During that time, it's estimated almost 200,000 children, mostly infants, passed through its gates,” Mr Gilroy said of the hospital that operated from 1702 to 1838.

The hospital was set up as a place where people could abandon children, with Mr Gilroy confirming, “the idea behind the establishment of the foundling hospital was to 'prevent exposure, death, and actual murder of illegitimate children' and to educate and rear them in the Reformed, or Protestant, faith."

He said the number of children being left at the hospital was so high that anyone wishing to leave an infant there “merely placed the child in the cradle.”

“A simple mechanism allowed the cradle to be rotated through the doorway, taking the child inside. A bell was then rang to alert the porter.

"Children from all parts, north, east, west, and even from Wales were sent to it,” Mr Gilroy, a former Senator said.

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