Saturday 18 November 2017

Remains of infants buried at Tuam Mother and Baby home difficult to identify, first report finds

The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The identification of remains of infants discovered at the site of Mother and Baby home in Tuam, Co Galway has been further complicated due to the fact that remains of different children are believed to be intermingled.

This will make it significantly harder to identify individual children.

In March the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation confirmed that "significant quantities" of human remains were buried at a sewage tank at the Tuam home.

Historian Catherine Corless has estimated that the remains of up to 800 babies could be buried there.

In a report compiled for Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and released by the minister this evening the complexities of excavating the site are noted.

The report reads:

"Such complexities [relating to the site] include the commingled/intermixed juvenile human remains, which were found in significant quantities in a subsurface chambered structure with limited accessibility.

"The probability that the commingling/intermixing of human remains has occurred is a significant complication to individual identification. This is more acute in the case of juvenile human remains due to their fragile nature, compounded by the potentially significant quantities involved."

The report is the first of its kind and was published online by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA). Monthly updates will follow on the first Friday of every month.

The report, prepared by the expert group appointed by the Government to guide the future of the site, proposes five options.

The first suggests that no further investigative work is done beyond a preliminary survey and DNA testing of the remains discovered previously.

"The site would then be returned to being managed as a site of memorial," the report reads.

A geographical excavation of the site is due to take place in the coming weeks and there is also a proposal to undertake sample DNA from the discovered remains.

A second option detailed is to excavate and recover human remains from the Memorial Garden. This would see the excavation of the structure where remains have already been identified. At this stage it is believed that this is the only portion of the site that contains the remains of children who died at the home.

A third option is to excavate all areas of interest which would see more people interviewed and more documents examined to identify further areas of potential interest.

Another option suggests excavation of the entire land formerly occupied by the Mother and Baby Home.  However, 83pc of the original site is no longer open.

Excavation may be hampered by the constrained size of the memorial garden site and the structural integrity of the chamber.

A programme of DNA analysis is also listed as a fifth option but the feasibility of DNA analysis needs to be more fully investigated.

A second stage report by the group will develop the options further and will look at the feasibility, cost and timeline of each.

"The  independent  Commission  on  Investigation  continues  to progress its statutory  investigation  and it will continue to directly communicate with relevant persons and the wider public in its own right," the DYCA said.

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