The excavation of the former Mother and Baby home in Tuam, Galway, is scheduled to begin in the latter stages of 2019.
Hundreds of babies are believed to have died at the home for unwed mothers and buried on the grounds during the 1920s through to the 1960s.
In 2014, a mass grave of almost 800 children was discovered. Their deaths and burial places were not properly recorded.
The home was open from 1925-61 and was run by the Bon Secours Sisters. It was one of several homes for unwed mothers in Ireland at the time.
Scientists have said it may be possible to identify some of the babies using DNA technology.
Leading Irish stars such as Liam Neeson have called on the Church to acknowledge its mistakes and make every effort to identify the babies.
Now the government have approved a forensic excavation of the site, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the process will begin later this year.
He said: “We anticipate that there’ll be excavations in Tuam in the latter half of 2019, because we have to pass legislation in the Oireachtas giving us, the Government, the power to do the excavations.
“Because, for lots of reasons, we don’t have the power to do that.
“So we’ll have to pass that legislation in the New Year, and we’d envisage carrying out the first excavations in the second half of 2019.
“In the meantime though, we can start appointing the experts and the ground team who’ll be doing the actual work.”
It is the first time an excavation on such a scale will have been carried out in Ireland and Mr Varadkar emphasised that giving the babies the dignity that they were denied in the past is ‘the right thing to do’.
He said; “We’ve never really done this before in Ireland, on this scale, so we’ve a lot to set up, [and] a lot to learn before we do it.
“We’re not entirely sure what we’re getting into, but as a Government we’re convinced this is the right thing to do, to remove the remains and to give those children a proper decent burial they didn’t get.”
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling