Published Thursday, 05 June 2014
There have been calls for an inquiry into the discovery. (© UTV)
It's understood the infants were discovered in a septic tank at a since-abandoned home in Tuam, run by Catholic nuns from the Sisters of the Bon Secours between 1925 and 1961.
A historian confirmed the names of the 796 children buried in the mass grave after she made repeated requests from the state for records.
Records of hundreds more at other homes are still being held confidentially.
The discovery has led to calls for the Irish government to hold a short, focused public inquiry into the practices at so-called mother and baby homes over the last century, particularly mass burials.
Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "Many of the revelations are deeply disturbing and a shocking reminder of a darker past in Ireland when our children were not cherished as they should have been. I am particularly mindful of the relatives of those involved and of local communities."
The Tuam burial site was discovered in 1975 by 12-year-old friends Barry Sweeney and Francis Hopkins.
Locally it was referred to for years as a famine burial site where youngsters who had died in the 1840s disaster were buried in a mass grave, often on unconsecrated ground.
Health board inspection records dating as far back as 1944 reveal the conditions some of the children and their mothers lived in.
Some 271 children, mostly aged from three weeks to 13 months, were listed as living there at the time with 61 single mothers, way over capacity.
A 13-month-old boy was described as a "miserable, emaciated child with voracious appetite and no control over bodily functions and probably mentally defective".
There was a "delicate" 10-month-old baby who was a "child of itinerants" and a five-year-old child who was described as having "hands growing near shoulders".
Others were referred to as "poor babies, emaciated and not thriving" or "fragile, pot-bellied and emaciated".
© UTV News