Tuam babies to be exhumed at Mother and Baby Home

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The Tuam babies buried at the former Mother and Baby Home will be exhumed and reburied after a forensic analysis it’s been decided.

The decision was made this afternoon at a meeting of the cabinet where Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone presented a recommendation to her colleagues.

Where possible, the remains recovered from the site will be identified through forensic analysis, and all will be reburied.

Minister Zappone acknowledged that implementing this decision will not be a straightforward matter, and work is unlikely to commence before next year.

She said that the government will have to pass specific legislation to allow site works to commence.

Announcing the decision Minister Zappone said, “I am committed to ensuring that all the children interred at this site can have a dignified and respectful burial.”

“I understand that this is a hugely important decision for all connected to the site in Tuam, most especially those who believe they may have a loved one buried there and those now living close to the site.”

It’s believed that as many as 796 children may be buried on the site of the former Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home.

The number first came to attention through the death certificates found by Catherine Corless for the children who died in the home.

Speaking about the news, Mrs Corless said that she was shocked by the government’s decision, but very grateful for it nonetheless.

The cost of the forensic exhumation could go as high as €13 million, of the Bon Secours order has contributed €2.5 million.

Undertaking a task of this technical complexity without undue disturbance to the children’s remains “has never been undertaken or contemplated previously” said Minister Zappone.

On top of undertaking the works themselves, there is the possibility of scientific, legal, and ethical dilemmas if mingled remains are found on the site.

The government will be implementing a multi-disciplinary framework called the Humanitarian Forensic Action to handle the excavations.

It will involve a phased approach to the excavation and recovery of the children’s remains, followed by forensic analysis and arrangements for them to be reburied.

“It is only by taking the right actions now can we truly demonstrate our compassion and commitment to work towards justice, truth and healing for what happened in our past and, most especially, for those who were previously abandoned,” said Minister Zappone.

The unhappy story of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home has dragged on for a long time, with accusations that the government has been avoiding making a decision about the 796.

It’s hoped that this decision will be a first step towards healing for those that have lived with the fate of family members hanging over their heads.

Along with this decision, a report by  Dr Geoffrey Shannon entitled Human Rights issues at the former site of the Mother and Baby Home, Tuam, Co. Galway was released.

It looks at to what extent there is a positive duty for the government to take measure to assist relatives and former residents.

The Commission of Investigation Into Mother and Baby Homes will continue its work, including looking into Tuam.