Tuam excavation may not start until early next summer

The long-awaited and much-welcomed excavation of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam will probably not commence before early next summer, in order to allow for legislative backing of the move.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil yesterday (Wednesday ) that excavation of the site in Tuam would require new legislation, which will not be ready until the first quarter of next year.

In response to questions from Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, he acknowledged that the Government was “honestly not sure what we are getting into” as a mass grave has never before been excavated in this way in Ireland.

“If we stumbled across a mass grave tomorrow we would carry out an investigation and that is what we are doing. But we are going to do it on a phased basis as we are honestly not sure what we are getting into. But we do know that it is the right thing to do.”

He says that a mass grave had never been excavated before in Ireland so we require new primary legislation and bespoke legislation.

“We expect to have that in the first quarter of next year.” The need for the legislation means that the first excavations at the Tuam site will not take place until the middle of next year.

Mr Varadkar’s comments came just a day after the Government approved the forensic excavation of the site where significant quantities of human remains were discovered early last year.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation began test excavations at the site of the children’s burial ground at the Dublin Road housing estate in Tuam in October 2016.

The commission was established following allegations about the deaths of 800 babies in Tuam over a number of decades and the manner in which they were buried. It said significant quantities of human remains were discovered in at least 17 of 20 underground chambers that were examined last year.

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