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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -1°C
Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland Local Tuam historian Catherine Corless pictured beside a grotto in the grounds where the unmarked mass grave was discovered
burials bill

Long-awaited bill passed to allow excavation of remains found in Tuam

The legislation allows the children’s remains found at the site to be excavated, recovered, and finally given a formal burial.

LONG-AWAITED LEGISLATION to allow for the excavation of the former mother and baby institution site in Tuam has passed through its final stage in the Oireachtas.

The Institutional Burials Bill 2022, known as the Burials Bill, will allow the children’s remains found at the site to be excavated, recovered, analysed, and finally given a formal burial.

The legislation has been sent to President Michael D Higgins for his signature, after which a process is expected to begin of establishing an office dedicated to overseeing the excavation of the site.

Other locations may also be excavated but the former Bon Secours institution in Tuam, where extensive research by local historian Catherine Corless led to the discovery of children’s remains in an unmarked mass grave, is the priority. 

Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman said that the bill “will allow us, at long last, to afford the children interred in Tuam a dignified and respectful burial”.

“My sincere hope is that this will finally bring some form of solace and closure to the families and survivors who have been so deeply affected by this abhorrent situation,” O’Gorman said.

I have met many survivors and family members and I want to thank them for their generosity in sharing their time and for their contribution to the development of this legislation.

“I would also like to thank Catherine Corless for her tireless work and commitment to the children interred in Tuam,” he said.

The legislation is being enacted five years after test excavations between November 2016 and February 2017 found a significant quantity of remains with ages ranging from 35 foetal weeks to two to three years.

The minister plans to seek Government approval to establish of Office of the Tuam Director of Authorised Interventions through an order under the legislation.

A director will then be appointed to the office “with a view to starting excavation of the site at Tuam as soon as possible”, according to a statement from the Department of Children.

An advisory board is planned for providing guidance to the director, including former residents or family members of deceased persons believed to be buried at the site.

The board is set to be chaired by a coroner and also include members with scientific expertise.

Concerns about the legislation in earlier stages raised by survivors and legal experts included the role of the coroner and the possible exclusion of certain institutions.

Changes made to the bill after pre-legislative scrutiny removed a restriction on the jurisdiction of the coroner, providing for a strengthened role for the director and the establishment of the advisory board.

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