A full exhumation of the bodies of children buried in Tuam Mother and Baby Home Park will begin in 2023.
A “director of authorized intervention” is to be appointed by the government to oversee the excavation of the site where nearly 800 children are believed to have been buried in an unmarked grave.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in taking the matter to the Dáil, said it was the state’s responsibility to remedy what was “a stain on our national conscience”.
Deputy Catherine Connolly, TD of Galway West, said while news of the exhumation was welcome she had ‘lost faith’ in the government which she said had ‘learned absolutely nothing’ and needed to being “dragged” every step of the way.
He had failed to propose a reparations package for the survivors of the house, she said, and Minister O’Gorman had reneged on an earlier commitment to have an independent human rights review testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes.
“I don’t think he should have ever promised that because he was never able to. He was never going to question the establishment narrative given to us by the Three Wise Commissioners, the narrative that told us that the testimonies of those who came forward were tainted and therefore should be treated with caution,” Deputy Connolly said.
“We continue to hold a grudge and do everything late. If we are seriously interested in repairing, let’s do it right.
Paying tribute to those who brought wrongdoing to light at Tuam Home and elsewhere, Deputy Connolly said they were the ones who forced the government’s hand.
“In the field, we saw Catherine Corless and, long before her, Mary Raftery. I also want to mention Patricia Burke Brogan [activist and playwright] passed away last week – may she rest in peace – in view of the work she carried out in respect of the laundries of the Madeleine, in particular with the piece Eclipsed.
“The groups on the ground certainly forced and dragged us at every step,” she said.
Agree, Minister O’Gorman said it was entirely fair to acknowledge the critical role of Tuam historian Catherine Corless.
“We wouldn’t be here today without his persistence in bringing to light what happened in Tuam.
“Deputy Connolly mentioned the Remedies Act. This bill was drafted by my ministry over the summer and I will present it to the Cabinet in October to seek approval of the final bill and quickly pass it through the Houses. [of the Oireachtas] and the committee, so that we can offer redress to family members,” he said.
Meanwhile Deputy Seán Canney, TD of Galway East, said what happened had a profound impact on the people of Tuam and said the manager, when appointed, should be based in Galway and seek to engage with locals during the excavation process.
“It created a sense of spot or shadow on Tuam as a city. Tuam is a very good city and the best people live there.
“The minister specified in his speech how a director would be appointed. . . and that an office will be set up to manage the excavations and all that goes with it. However, it is important that there is local engagement with the people of the city,” Deputy Canney said.
“The office should be set up in the city and there should be a liaison aspect to the file that this director will have so that people in the locality who want to know what is going on can find out,” he continued. , adding that locals should be able to meet the manager in Tuam and not in Dublin or elsewhere.
Minister O’Gorman stressed that the warden would oversee an excavation, recovery, analysis and reburial of the remains to forensic standards.
“The order also provides that the director will carry out an identification program as an additional function of the response,” he said.