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'At Long Last' 'Hugely complex' excavation planned for Tuam Mother and Baby Home

The Institutional Burials Bill will use a DNA identification process to reunited dozens of families with the remains of their loved ones.

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The Grotto at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home site in Tuam, Galway. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The Grotto at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home site in Tuam, Galway. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The Grotto at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home site in Tuam, Galway. Photo: Steve Humphreys

The Cabinet has approved a Bill allowing for legal forensic excavation, recovery, and analysis of remains at site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam and others.

The Institutional Burials Bill will use a DNA identification process to reunited dozens of families with the remains of their loved ones.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said that while the excavation will likely be a “hugely complex operation”, it will be “one of the most complex forensic excavation and recovery efforts ever undertaken not only in Ireland but anywhere in the world.

He added that the DNA identification process will be completed “on a scale never done before in Ireland” and “will ensure that the children there have the dignified burial that has been denied to them for so long.”

The Bill contains a number of changes from earlier drafts of the legislation, namely restrictions on who could provide DNA samples to compare with remains.

The legislation now allows for a wider circle of relatives, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, to provide samples.

“Nothing in this legislation will prevent inquests or investigations into the deaths at Tuam,” the minister said.

Research by historian Catherine Corless revealed that 798 children, most of them infants, died in the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam from when it first opened in 1925 until it shut its doors in 1961.

The minister said that the Institutional Burials Bill allows for excavation of the entire site in Tuam and added that he is unable to predict how many remains will be identified during the process.

“We are designing this legislation to ensure that every set of remains is recovered and is identified and potentially linked to somebody. We are not just looking at the septic tank, we are looking at the entire site in Tuam,” he said.

He insisted that the excavation was necessary and would “at long last, afford the children interred at Tuam a dignified and respectful burial.”

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