The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, has today (Tuesday) confirmed the government’s approval of her recommendation for the forensic excavation of the available site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.
The government has agreed to implement the multi-disciplinary framework, known as Humanitarian Forensic Action, as the appropriate response to the discovery of children’s remains interred at this site.
The actions to be taken include:
The government’s decision was informed by the detailed technical advice on international best practice, and most importantly, out of compassion and respect for the rights and dignity for the children believed to be interred on this site.
Announcing today’s decision the Minister said:
Minister Zappone acknowledged that implementing this decision will not be straightforward. She confirmed that new legislation will be needed to provide specific lawful authority for the proposed course of action and announced the establishment of a small cross-departmental team to advance this priority task. The wider Inter-Departmental Group on Tuam, led by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, will continue to provide an oversight role for the whole-of-Government in terms of strategy and overall approach for the project.
The Minister also published a report by Dr Geoffrey Shannon entitled Human Rights issues at the former site of the Mother and Baby Home, Tuam, Co. Galway, which examines the extent to which there may be a positive duty to take reasonable and proportionate actions to assist relatives and former residents.
With a focus on implementing best practice, the Minister welcomes the government’s endorsement of the multi-disciplinary approach to this project as recommended in the advices and report of the Expert Technical Group on the Tuam site. Arrangements will be advanced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to progress the project on this basis. The government will further consider details of the draft legislation and associated project plans in advance of site works commencing.
The Minister wants the excavation and recovery works to initially focus on the remains known to be within the series of chambers identified by the Commission of Investigation. Further testing can then allow for the informed and phased extension of the investigation across the available site as necessary. This does not include the areas where houses and gardens have been built and developed on this site.
The Expert Technical Group has already identified eight separate areas warranting further examination. This work will be supplemented by further investigations to determine the extent of potential human remains across the site. Every reasonable effort will be made to locate and recover all juvenile remains from the site.
In recognising the importance of an inclusive approach with former residents, their families and those who live near the area now, dedicated community liaison and communications processes will be key elements of the project.
The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is continuing its work. The facts which it establishes will further assist the work on the site in Tuam.