Deputy Catherine Connolly welcomes the decision by Minister Zappone and the government for a forensic excavation of the available site of the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. Although it has taken some time, she said this is the right decision at the end of the day.
Deputy Connolly said she understands that the process is to take place on a phased basis and is expected to cost up to €13 million. Clearly more details are needed on a number of matters including the timescale of this process; clarification on the circumstance of the €2.5 million contribution offered by the Bon Secours Sisters; and details of proposed legislative changes required to facilitate the process.
Deputy Connolly also said that Dr Geoffrey Shannon’s report has been very helpful in placing this matter in a rights-based context. He has clearly confirmed that there was an obligation to bury the infants lawfully and with decency and respect. Furthermore the Sisters were under a statutory duty to report each death and the families should have been informed of the circumstances both of the death and burial.
The right decision to excavate the site has come at the end of a long journey of pain and suffering for the families involved and yet is only the first step in dealing with Ireland’s buried past. This process is intended to give maximum information to former residents and their families as to what happened to their family members. We know from the tireless work of Catherine Corless that there are death certificates for 796 infants and children. But that information itself gives rise to a whole series of questions, including, whether the number of bodies match the number of death certificates available; and if there are more or fewer bodies than the death certificates, what are the reasons for this?
Moreover Deputy Connolly is aware that a number of families have called for a full inquest to be carried out on each of the remains and this request should be carefully examined. There are also implications for other sites in the country, including Lenaboy on Taylor’s Hill, which will need further detailed consideration.