Sunday 16 June 2019

Experts to advise on exhumation of Tuam babies site

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone Picture: Mark Condren
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone Picture: Mark Condren
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

International experts are to be brought in to provide advice on the potential mass exhumation of bodies from the Tuam Mother and Baby Home site.

The Government will today consider the 'next steps' for the site, where it is believed hundreds of dead babies were buried by nuns between 1925 and 1961.

Among the decisions to be taken in the coming months is whether officials believe it will be possible to ID any of the remains.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone will update the Cabinet on developments at the site since it was revealed in March that "significant quantities" of human remains were found.

Ms Zappone's office declined to comment ahead of her Cabinet briefing, but it is understood she will tell colleagues decisions need to be taken quickly.

She wants to set up an inter-departmental group to focus on sourcing technical expertise from within the State and abroad.

This group will look at the best international practice in the event that a decision is taken for a full excavation.

As part of this it will seek advice over what it would involve if the State was to try to identify the remains buried at the site. Depending on the final number of babies, this could be a huge undertaking.

Experts will also be asked to advise on the best way of protecting the human remains while work is carried out at the site.

In March, it was revealed that a commission set up to investigate mother and baby homes had carried out exploratory works in Tuam.

Amateur historian Catherine Corless had claimed close to 800 babies could be buried on the site.

The Commission admitted it was "shocked" after finding remains in 17 underground chambers that appeared to have been used for the treatment or containment of sewage or waste water.

A small number of the remains were recovered for the purpose of analysis.

"These remains involved a number of individuals with age-at-death ranges from approximately 35 foetal weeks to two to three years," it said.

"Radiocarbon dating of the samples recovered suggest that the remains date from the timeframe relevant to the operation of the mother and baby home."

The Bon Secours nuns ran the home from 1925 until its closure in 1961.

A number of the samples recovered are believed to date from the 1950s, but further scientific tests are being conducted.

At the time of the discovery, Ms Zappone said: "We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately."

Irish Independent

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