Government considers advice on Tuam mother-and-baby home

Catherine Corless welcomes move to consider best practice in event of full excavation

‘Significant’ children’s remains were found at a mother and babies home in Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

‘Significant’ children’s remains were found at a mother and babies home in Tuam, Co Galway. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Advice from international experts on the future of “significant” children’s remains found at a mother and babies home in Tuam, Co Galway will be considered by a Government inter-departmental committee on Friday.

The interdepartmental committee has been established by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone with a remit to source “appropriate” technical expertise, both national and international.

The remains were found during archaeological work initiated last year for the Commission on the Investigation of Mother and Baby Homes, and have been referred to the county coroner.

The inter-departmental group, which is chaired by her department’s secretary-general Dr Fergal Lynch, is expected to report back before the end of May on the best expertise to advise on the next stages.

The development has been welcomed by local historian Catherine Corless, whose tracing of records into the deaths of almost 800 babies and infants at the Tuam home run by the Bon Secours order from 1925 to 1961 led to the commission’s excavations.

Full exhumation

Ms Zappone said that the aim of the expertise was to advise on options and best international practice in the event of a decision for a full excavation of the site.

The expertise was also required to explore the potential to identify the remains buried on the site, and what may be involved in undertaking DNA testing and whether it would produce results, she said.

Ms Zappone said this had been requested by Ms Corless, along with survivors and relatives of those who had been in the former home, when she and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney visited Tuam in early April.

Ms Corless said Ms Zappone had “really kept her promise to the survivors to find a solution”.

She said that the survivors, including many more who had contacted her since the confirmation of remains in early March, were seeking full exhumation and full DNA testing.

She said that each of the 796 names attached to death certificates researched by her had to be accounted for, as it was “very possible” some of the certificates had been falsified to cover for adoptions.

Several other areas close to the home also required investigation, she said.

She said the survivors were also hoping President Michael D Higgins would visit the site at some point to “stand in solidarity”.

Survivors and relatives of people who may have died in the home were suffering greatly, without any offer of State or Church counselling, since the commission had issued its interim report, she said.