Minister Zappone requests Tuam babies research

Children’s minister Katherine Zappone is requesting a copy of research which states that new advanced genomic technologies should allow for the identification of remains at the site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby Home.

A team of experts in genomics from University College Dublin and Trinity College have challenged the findings of Ms Zappone’s expert technical group (ETG) advising Government about managing the Tuam site.

The ETG had said that the “commingled” nature of the remains made it “particularly challenging to realistically isolate individual remains”.

However, the report also pointed out that Ireland may be bound by human rights law to investigate the deaths to the fullest degree possible.

It had outlined five options which the Government could pursue when managing the location, ranging from doing no further investigative work, to a full forensic excavation and analysis of all human remains.

However, the UCD/TCD team of genomics experts said new advanced genomic technologies should allow for the identification of remains at the Co Galway site.

The findings are published in a submission to the public consultation process by Galway County Council. It is written by David MacHugh, Jens Carlsson, and Stephen Donoghue from UCD, and Trinity’s Dan Bradley.

Ms Zappone has requested a copy of the submission so that it can be reviewed by the ETG. In a statement, the Department of Children said the minister had made it clear on publication of the ETG report that neither she nor her department had a preferred option in terms of the Tuam site, and that stance remains.

Historian Catherine Corless, whose work led to the discovery of a mass grave in Tuam, said the submission “couldn’t have come at a better time” as a decision on how to proceed at the site will be taken next month.

“You would wonder though, why the specialist team used an outdated report on the possibilities of DNA testing when up-to-date information on DNA testing was at hand,” said Ms Corless. “Also, why did they not consult with local DNA experts?”

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