Groups representing survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home have cautiously welcomed a new report which said that their DNA can be taken without the need for new legislation.
The report, prepared by Dr Geoffrey Shannon following a call from the Tuam Home Survivors’ Network in February, found that while the current legislative framework may not suitable for the collection of such samples, it could be done by way of a voluntary administrative scheme and without the need for new legislation.
Chairman of the Tuam Home Survivors Network Peter Mulryan — himself a survivor of the institution — reiterated the group’s long-held belief that a coroner’s inquest should be opened into the deaths of children.
“A coroner’s inquest is the one we need, and is the proper investigation of the deaths of each of those babies down there,” he told RTÉ News.
Mr Mulryan wrote to the coroner for north Galway in June and July of last year, called on the office to “begin the formal process of convening an inquest into the deaths of the Tuam children, without further delay”.
He also hit out at the fact that such an inquest has not been ordered before now, labelling the delay “inexcusable”.
Mr Mulryan has also written to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the attorney general on the need for a formal inquest into the deaths of all the children.
Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance PRO Breeda Murphy said the group was “pleased” that Dr Shannon had proposed the collection of DNA samples via an administrative scheme.
“It is comforting to note that no DNA profiles can be constructed arising out of the samples until legislation is in place and we are assured it is possible to generate DNA from the remains of the lost children,” she said.
“The DNA is being collected for that sole purpose. The safe storage of DNA is paramount and we are provided with an assurance it will not be available or used for any purpose other than matching. If the possibility is not there to match for any reason, then the DNA will be destroyed. It is valuable data and must be treated as such,” she said.
Ms Murphy also expressed gratitude to Dr Shannon for looking favourably on the “request to begin the process of banking DNA from concerned family members and survivors without the necessity of awaiting a lengthy legislation process”.
Catherine Corless, who found the names of the 796 children who died at the home, said the report was a “step forward” and stressed that the remains were in “excellent condition” and that it will be possible to extract DNA from them.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said that she would consult with legal advisors and relevant agencies to develop the administrative scheme “within the coming months”.
Legislation is being prepared to facilitate the exhumation and forensic analysis of the Tuam remains.
The administrative scheme will then be subsumed into the legislation once that is ready.
No DNA profiles will be generated from the biological samples until the legislation is in place and it has proven possible to generate DNA profiles from the juvenile remains.