Division in Tuam between residents and mother and baby home relatives

Many locals want only a memorial, while families favour total forensic excavation

A majority of people resident near the former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, would prefer that a memorial be erected there and that existing remains not be disturbed any further.

However, relatives of children who had been resident in the home want a full forensic examination of the site along with DNA analysis. This is according to the main findings following a public consultation process on the options and appropriate courses of action available to Government in relation to the site of the former home in Tuam.

Preferences from members of the general public were as divided between memorialisation alone and some form of forensic excavation and DNA analysis, while the majority in the latter group favoured the most extensive intervention.

The report was published on Friday by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone.


Feasible options

A significant number of infant remains were confirmed on the site of the former mother and baby home in March 2017. A multi-disciplinary Expert Technical Group (ETG) was commissioned to explore feasible options available to the Government. Their report was published last December by Ms Zappone.

Galway County Council then conducted a consultation process with stakeholders to include the public in response to the ETG options. It invited submissions from interested people and organisations and provided opportunities for dialogue. Being an interested party, it employed two independent facilitators, Catherine O'Connell and Barbara Walshe to conduct the process.

In all, 799 written submissions were sent to the council. An analysis of these found that two options were clearly favoured by the majority. These were memorialisation alone, favoured by 392, and a complete forensic excavation of the site with DNA analysis, favoured by 328.

Of the written submissions made, the largest group 568 (71 per cent) were from the public with 131 submissions from local residents whose homes surround the site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Of the local residents 87 per cent favoured memorialisation and non-disturbance.

Total excavation

A total of 78 submissions were made by relatives of former residents in the Mother and Baby Home and 19 of those who made written submissions were former residents of the home, 63 per cent of whom favoured forensic excavation of the total area. Of the relatives 89 per cent favoured such total excavation.

The report concluded that “preferences were strongly divided according to stakeholder type with the biggest divergence in opinion being between former residents and relatives of former residents of the Tuam mother and baby home and local residents whose homes surround the site”.

The report’s brief did not include a recommendation as to the future of the site and no decision has been made as to what that will be.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which is due to report next Spring, has investigated the site as part of its work. It recently completed works to re-instate the area which they had been investigating.

This is separate to what may be commenced once a decision is made on the future of the site. The commission has been investigating burials at the site and will include the results in its findings.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times