Excavation of Tuam site to begin in late 2019
The excavation of the Tuam site where it is suspected that hundreds of babies are buried will be the biggest in Irish history and is set to begin later in 2019.
It comes after significant quantities of human remains were discovered in 2016 at the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam.
In October, the Government approved the forensic excavation of the site.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed he expects the excavation will take place later in 2019.
"We anticipate there'll be excavations in Tuam in the latter half of 2019, because we have to pass legislation in the Oireachtas giving us, the Government, the power to do the excavations," the Taoiseach said. "Because, for lots of reasons, we don't have the power to do that.
"We'll have to pass that legislation in the new year, and we'd envisage carrying out the first excavations in the second half of 2019.
"In the meantime, we can start appointing the experts and the ground team who'll be doing the actual work."
Mr Varadkar said he does not believe an excavation of this size has been done before in Ireland but emphasised his Government believes it is the "right thing to do".
"We've never really done this before in Ireland, on this scale, so we've a lot to set up, [and] a lot to learn before we do it," he said.
"We're not entirely sure what we're getting into, but as a Government we're convinced this is the right thing to do, to remove the remains and to give those children a proper, decent burial they didn't get."
The Tuam mother and baby home operated from 1925 to 1961 and was run by the Bon Secours Sisters. Official records show 798 infants and children died at the home and it is believed many were buried there.