Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: -2°C
Laura Hutton/ Local Tuam historian Catherine Corless

Long-awaited Burials Bill to be published next week

If the legislation passes in the coming months, the site of the former mother and baby institution in Tuam may finally be excavated.

THE LONG-AWAITED Burials Bill will be published after the Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman will bring the draft legislation to Cabinet, prior to meeting Tuam survivors and relatives and then publishing the Bill.

The legislation would allow excavations, exhumations and re-interment of remains at the sites of former mother and baby homes.

If the Certain Institutional Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill passes through the Oireachtas as expected in the coming months, the site of the former mother and baby institution in Tuam may finally be excavated – five years after a “significant” quantity of human remains were found in a test excavation.

In a letter sent to survivors today, O’Gorman said: “This important and sensitive legislation has been a priority for me. I have taken time to meet with and reflect carefully on the feedback from those most closely affected by this issue and have made substantial and meaningful changes to the legislation to address their concerns.”

The general scheme of the Bill published last year provided for the creation of an agency which would oversee the excavation, exhumation, identification and reburial of any remains found at sites where “manifestly inappropriate burials have taken place”.

The Bill would also permit excavations and exhumations from these sites and provide a basis for identification using DNA samples from unidentified bodies exhumed and from people who are or may be close relatives of those unidentified persons.

Survivors, relatives and archaeologists have called for the Tuam site to be excavated urgently.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was set up following claims that 796 babies were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a former Bon Secours institution in Tuam – following extensive research by local historian Catherine Corless.

Excavations carried out between November 2016 and February 2017 found a significant quantity of human remains interred in a vault on the site.

Pre-legislative scrutiny

In July 2021, O’Gorman received the Oireachtas Children’s Committee’s report on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Burials Bill

In a letter sent to survivors on 15 December, the minister said this report “has been the subject of close examination by myself and my officials”.

“It has taken some time to reflect on its recommendations and to consider how best these can be taken on board in the context of developing the Bill – a Bill which is essential to restoring dignity to the children who died in the institution at Tuam.”

Survivors and legal experts have raised concerns about a number of aspects of the proposed legislation in recent months, including the role of the coroner and the possible exclusion of certain institutions.

In November, eight UN human rights bodies said they were concerned that the legislation may actually “create additional obstacles” to investigating deaths at mother and baby homes and related institutions.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.