Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (663)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

663. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the State will begin the collection of DNA samples for the purpose of returning human remains in Tuam, County Galway to identifiable relatives for dignified burial. [53122/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments and Agencies, is developing detailed proposals consistent with the findings of Dr Geoffrey Shannon's 'Report on the Collection of Tuam Survivors' DNA' (published in September 2019). The proposals relate to the establishment of a voluntary administrative scheme under which biological samples could be collected from possible family members before the legislation to enable Government exhume the children interred at Tuam and undertake an identification programme is enacted. I hope to bring these proposals to Government early in the Spring session.

DNA profiles will not be generated from biological samples collected as part of any administrative scheme, until such time as the legislation based on the General Scheme of a Certain Historical Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill is enacted and it is established whether viable DNA profiles for the purpose of comparison can be generated from the remains at the site.

In terms of the identification programme envisaged in the General Scheme, its purpose is to enable assurance to be given to family members on respectful re-interment or to return remains to family members. While it is the intention to return remains to family members if this is reasonably possible, it must be acknowledged that this may not be possible. As set out by the Expert Technical Group Report on the Tuam site, significant difficulties arise because the juvenile remains at the site are extensively commingled and have been buried there for a significant period of time. It is unclear if it will be possible to generate DNA profiles from the remains and, even if it does prove possible, individualising full sets of remains may not be achievable.