Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has announced that the government is to launch an inquiry into the treatment of children at former homes for unmarried mothers run by the Catholic Church.

Speaking after the announcement Irish Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan told the press the proposed Commission of Investigation would “seek the truth, to catalog the facts and to explain exactly what happened in Mother and Baby homes.”

The announcement comes weeks after historian Catherine Corless confirmed almost 800 children had died and were allegedly buried in a septic tank at a mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway.

“It is not an exaggeration to say the treatment of the women and their babies was an abomination,” Kenny said.

Then, referring to the forthcoming inquiry he added: “If this issue isn’t handled properly, then Ireland’s soul in many ways will lie like the babies of so many of these mothers in an unmarked grave.”

On Sunday the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference, which is currently conducting its summer general meeting, told the press it welcomed an investigation.

“We need to find out more about what this period in our social history was really like and to consider the legacy it has left us as a people. Above all we need to enable those who were directly affected to receive recognition and appropriate support.

“We therefore welcome the government’s intention that the Commission of Investigation will have the necessary legal authority to examine all aspects of life in the homes.

“The investigation should inquire into how these homes were funded and, crucially, how adoptions were organized, processed and followed up.”

Further controversy erupted over the weekend when news broke that 298 children in ten different Catholic care homes were involved in drug trials administered without their mothers' consent.

In one of the trials 80 children reportedly became ill after they were accidentally administered a vaccine that was intended for cattle. There were no laws governing medical testing in Ireland until 1987.

Last month, before the Tuam Home Babies story broke, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) blasted four Irish religious orders for their continuing refusal to contribute any monies to a restorative justice fund for survivors of the Magdalene laundries they had once run for profit.

It’s the second time since 2011 that UNCAT singled out Ireland and the Magdalene laundries as an issue requiring urgent action. Even before the Tuam story broke the legacy of abuse and exploitation of the Magdalene laundries was considered to be of sufficient gravity to merit heightened scrutiny from the United Nations.

The congregations named by the UN committee are the Irish Sisters of Charity, the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and the Sisters of Mercy.  

With the claims made against the Bon Secours sisters, the order of nuns who once ran the Tuam mother and baby home, they may soon find themselves added to that doubtful list.

Critics say if payments and meaningful reparations cannot be made by either church or state, then the issues of illegal for profit adoption, medical trials undertaken without consent of the mother and the troubling question of where the recorded dead infants and children are buried must be addressed without delay.