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Bon Secours order should pay for Tuam babies’ exhumation, burial, says Corless

Historian criticises order’s offer of €2.5million as ‘meagre offering’

Historian Catherine Corless: found death certificates for 796 infants. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tuam historian Catherine Corless said the Bon Secours order should pay the full cost of the exhumation, identification and proper burial of the remains at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

She told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the order’s offer of €2.5million is “a meagre offering” given that the order “has private hospitals all over the place”.

“The least they can do to help the healing is cover the cost of the whole thing. The fact that the Bon Secours sisters are paying out shows they feel responsible.

“The correct thing is being done, these babies are being given dignity. The important message to the survivors is that the Government care enough to do this.”

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said yesterday that the cost of the exhumation will be between €6 million and €13 million. The Bon Secours Sisters have contributed €2.5 million.

However, the excavation cannot happen without specific legislation first being passed by the Dáil, the Minister explained yesterday. The process is unlikely to begin until next year at the earliest.

The events at the Tuam Mother and Baby home were first brought to public attention by Ms Corless who found death certificates for 796 infants.

Earlier today on Newstalk Breakfast Ms Zappone said the legislation required is a “complicated process” and that the work is just beginning. It has to be done properly as it could be required as a template if further sites are identified.

The Minister acknowledged it is possible that even with the best approach and methodology all the remains will not be identified.

“This is unchartered territory. We will take a staged approach, and we will learn as we go. That is the most effective way.”

The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, told Morning Ireland that there is a duty to bury the remains with “decency and respect”, and he warmly welcomed the Government’s decision.

It is important there has been a contribution from the religious order, he said, adding the phased approach is the right decision.

“Every reasonable approach must be made to locate remains as the right to dignity after death exists. Ireland’s reputation is in the spotlight,” Dr Shannon said.

“Tuam was a particular example. The image of a child on a sewer undermines dignity after death.”

He said there could be other sites and they will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis.