Religious order has ‘ethical responsibility’ to pay more towards Tuam excavation

Minister say work on exhumations at former mother and baby home may not begin until late 2020

The site of the former  Tuam mother and baby home which is to be excavated. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The site of the former Tuam mother and baby home which is to be excavated. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said that the Bon Secours order has an “ethical responsibility” to provide more funding for the exhumation and reburial of the remains of babies at the Tuam mother and baby home.

The order has committed to contributing €2.5million towards the cost which is estimated could be between €6million and €13million.

The Minister told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that she had asked the order for more money but the balance in any event would be met by the State.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the publication of the general scheme of a Bill that will provide the legal basis for a phased forensic excavation, exhumation and re-interment of remains at the site.

Following on from the work of Co Galway historian Catherine Corless, who gathered death certificates for 796 infants linked to the home, a Commission of Investigation into mother-and-baby homes found “significant quantities” of human remains on the site.

The Certain Institutional Burials Bill will allow for forensic analysis of any recovered remains and provides for samples to be taken from the remains as well as from relatives of the deceased for the purpose of identification. An agency will be established to manage interventions at the site. Under the Bill, the Government could also authorise similar interventions at other sites.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Zappone said it was difficult to say exactly when the excavation works would begin but signalled it could be towards the end of next year.

“It is very hard to estimate how long that is, but I established a separate unit within my department with a couple of people dedicated solely to this work a number of months ago and I hope that that demonstrates our sense of urgency,” she said.

“I very much accept the fact that there is a sense of urgency from the families. The general scheme is highly technical because of the issues involved, particularly in relation to the identification of the children, and it does take time to work through the privacy and data protection implications too, and I’m very grateful for the forbearance again of the family members who have waited so long.”

Ms Zappone said she believed it was vital that the State “takes responsibility for past failings” and the legislation would offer a means to do this.

“It will allow us to afford those children the dignity and respect in death that they are owed, and I hope that it will give some peace to their families,” she added.