Katherine Zappone ‘open’ on future of Tuam babies’ remains

A recommendation on the future of children’s remains at the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam is expected to be announced in early autumn, a meeting in the Co Galway town was told last night.

Grotto at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone met Tuam residents and members of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Survivors group at a public meeting where she sought feedback from the community before she signs off on her final decision before Government.

Ms Zappone told the meeting it was her personal opinion that the possibility of exhumation of the remains and their reinterment in a respectful and sensitive manner should be investigated.

The minister also said that she was willing to introduce any legislation required to ensure the approach decided on can be carried out.

Based on my considerations so far, I believe that an approach based on human rights and the principles I have already outlined would involve taking all reasonable steps to investigate the scope for retrieval of human remains and, if logistically possible, to exhume and reinter the bodies in a respectful and sensitive manner,” said Ms Zappone.

“Of course, questions of scale arise here, which are not altogether straightforward.

“I very much hope to be able to bring proposals to Government by the early autumn, and I commit to being as open as possible as things develop.

“Let me assure you that if what seems to me to be the best approach requires us to introduce legislation to ensure it can be done, then I will not be dissuaded from that task.”

Outside the venue of the meeting, hundreds of toys were laid out on display by some residents of Tuam, around a sign reading: “Bury our babies with dignity.”

In 2015, research by local historian Catherine Corless revealed there were no burial records for 796 children at the Tuam home between 1925 and 1961 and, shortly after that, a Commission of Investigation was launched to probe the actions of 18 State-linked religious institutions.

Death registers showing hundreds of infant deaths at the Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey mother and baby homes were handed over to the State by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 2011, while an Irish Examiner investigation in 2015 revealed the HSE informed the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs about serious concerns about infant mortality rates at Tuam and Bessborough in 2012.

To date, Tuam is the only site that has been examined for infant remains.

Last month, Ms Zappone published the report of a public consultation process carried out by Galway County Council. The report found former residents and residents of the Tuam home were overwhelmingly in favour of a forensic excavation of the site and DNA analysis of all remains.

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