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Excavation of Tuam mother and baby home site one step closer as Advisory Board is chosen

THE EXCAVATION OF the site of the former mother and baby institution in Tuam in Co Galway is one step closer after the appointment of an advisory board.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman today confirmed that the six members of the board have been chosen.

The group will provide support and guidance to Daniel MacSweeney, who was appointed the director of intervention at the site in May.

MacSweeney, who previously worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross, is expected to consult with the advisory board at regular intervals including when making key decisions about the intervention.

The appointment of the board has been broadly welcomed by survivors and relatives, who have been critical of extensive delays in intervention at the site.

The members of the board include survivor Peter Mulryan, a member of the Tuam Home Survivors Network who has previously shared his search for information about his two sisters, one of whom was also born in Tuam.

The other members are as follows:

  • Chairperson: Dr Brian Farrell, Dublin District Coroner emeritus and past President of the Coroner’s Society of Ireland
  • Scientific Expert: Dr Barra O’Donnabhain, Department of Archaeology, University College Cork
  • Scientific Expert: Dr Denise Keating, Freelance Consultant Osteoarchaeologist
  • County Council representative: Alan Farrell, Director of Services (Corporate Services)
  • Family member: Annette McKay, a campaigner whose sister is believed to be buried in Tuam

In line with the provisions of the Institutional Burials Act 2022 the board consists of a chairperson who is a former coroner or someone with coronial expertise; two members with scientific expertise; a representative of Galway County Council; a former resident of the Tuam institution; and a family member of a person believed to be buried at the Tuam site.

The County Council representative has been nominated by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The other five positions were advertised via a call for Expressions of Interest, published on 27 June 2023.

Temporary protection measures in place for six years

Speaking today, Minister O’Gorman said the “strong pool of experience and expertise” of the members “will be an invaluable resource to the director during what will no doubt be a highly complex intervention process”.

“In addition to being supported by this advisory board, the Tuam director is committed to ongoing engagement with all those affected by the site,” O’Gorman added.

Tireless research by local historian Catherine Corless a decade ago uncovered the fact that around 800 babies and young children might be buried at the site in Tuam.

Her work eventually resulted in the establishment of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Archaeologists who carried out a test excavation at the site in 2016 and 2017 previously said the measures put in place to protect the site and the remains were “not designed to last longer than six months”.

These temporary measures have now been in place for well over six years.