Tuam home survivors want DNA samples to be taken

DNA samples from elderly or frail survivors should be ‘banked’ for future identification

A file image of  the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, in Co Galway. Photograph: PA

A file image of the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, in Co Galway. Photograph: PA

 

Survivors from the Tuam mother and baby home have called on the Government to begin collecting DNA samples immediately.

The Tuam Home Survivors’ Network said this process is urgent due to the age profile and health status of its members.

“Results from our ageing and in, some cases, frail membership, should be banked to eliminate any delay in returning human remains to identifiable relatives for dignified burials,” the group said in a statement.

They said the work should proceed in a way that will be “of greatest benefit to the greatest number of survivors, victims and families”.

“For this to be achieved, as much information as possible should be obtained from each sample of human remains. The quantifying of the DNA extracted is the paramount task to be accomplished.”

An excavation of the site of the former Co Galway mother and baby home is due to take place later this year. Following the work of 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 in disused septic tanks in Tuam.

The Government recently granted a one-year extension to the commission, which had been due to give its final report next month.

The survivors group said based on the quantity of DNA extracted from the remains, “a decision can then be made on the best method to use to achieve the best outcome”.

They said the methodology should be peer reviewed and/or follow guidelines from other sites such as the World Trade Centre and wildfires in California.

In the event the quantity is insufficient for current analysis, it should be “safely and appropriately stored” for future analysis, “when technology advances will present new opportunities for matching,” it added.

Liam Tansey, from the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network said members had lost faith in the process after the one-year extension to the commission.

Mr Tansey said many of the members were elderly and frail with some under hospice care.

“Time is of the essence,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday.

“We are now calling on the Minister to meet us, we want to be constructive partners in the process,” he added. “The work should start immediately.”