THE Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes and "related matters" will extend its investigation to the early part of the last century, Government sources said yesterday.
The terms of reference of the probe, which will examine part of Ireland's dark past, were approved by the Cabinet yesterday and will be announced by Minister for Children James Reilly this morning.
The Church-run homes that catered for unmarried mothers and their children have been at the centre of allegations of mistreatment, neglect and questionable adoption practice.
Several groups, particularly those in Protestant-run homes, are expected to be disappointed at the extent of the investigation which will be headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy.
It is expected that at least nine institutions will be included. They are Ard Mhuire, Dunboyne, Meath; Bessboro in Cork; Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary and Bethany Home, Dublin. Also included are Pelletstown/ St Patrick's; Tuam home in Galway; Kilrush home in Clare and St Gerard's in Dublin.
It is also expected to include a comprehensive historical survey of baby homes, county homes, private nursing homes, homes for infants or children and Magdalen laundries. It is likely to look at the management of these institutions.
The investigation was promised after shock revelations that 800 children died at the mother and baby home in Tuam in Galway from the 1920s to the early 1960s.
Their mass grave was discovered 40 years ago, but it was not until last year that local historian Catherine Corless drew attention to the very high infant death rate - with almost 80pc dying before their first birthday. The home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters for 36 years.
Central to the terms of the commission will be confidentiality surrounding personal sensitive information, particularly for women who want to ensure their past remains private.
An inter-departmental group which carried out a preliminary examination earlier this year found babies who were born illegitimate were nearly four times more likely to die than those whose mothers were married up to 1950.
The Irish Independent highlighted how nearly 500 infant corpses were transferred to university medical schools for teaching and research from the 1940s to the early 1960s.
A total of 1,911 passports were obtained for Irish babies adopted in the US.