Identities of Tuam babies may never be discovered says new report

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Identities of Tuam babies may never be discovered says new report. Photo copyright Clint Malpaso CC3

The remains of babies discovered at a mass grave at the Tuam institution may never be identified, according to a new report.

The Tuam institute was a home for unmarried mothers and was run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours for the Catholic Church. It was open from 1925-1961.

Identities of Tuam babies may never be discovered says new report. Photo copyright Clint Malpaso CC3

Earlier this year a mass grave of infants was discovered at the Co Galway site.

However, a new report has revealed that the identities of the babies my never be discovered due to several issues.

It comes from an expert technical group established for the Government.

One of the main difficulties would be that researchers would need DNA from living relatives to compare to the bodies of the babies.

Even then, it could be extremely difficult to find a match as it would depend on the quality of the remains recovered.

The group said that it would cost up to €5million to forensically excavate the entire 0.4 hectares area and would take up to two years.

However, to manage the site as a memorial could cost €100,000 and be completed within six months.

They urged ministers to maintain realistic expectations about how much information can be taken from DNA testing – and warned of the impossibility of a positive identification without a sample from a living relative.

It reported: “Even then, identification will be extremely difficult, and will depend on the quality of the remains.”

It says that the best source of DNA samples comes from the teeth, including the root. This is another problem for identifying the babies as human teeth are not sufficiently formed until the age of two years.

A spokesman said: “While this may be acceptable when dealing with whole skeletons or significant intact portions, it is far less satisfactory when being used to identify individual fragments.”

Laura and Mary Collins believe as many as six relatives could lay in the Galway site.

Laura said: “To not hear directly from the commission or gardai, I’m sure will also be very upsetting to others affected and involved.

“Myself and my mother Mary Collins, a child Magdalene survivor, are life long campaigners for justice and for the removal of her mum, Angelina, from an unmaintained grave in Cork.

“With our wider family we will be travelling to Cork from London to pay our respects at the mass grave where she lays with 72 other women.”

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said: “I want to ensure whatever action is taken respects the memory and dignity of those who are buried there and takes account of the concerns and wishes of all who are affected.”

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling