12/12/2017 - The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, published the Report of the Expert Technical Group (ETG) entitled Options and Appropriate Courses of Action available to Government at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home, Tuam, Co. Galway.
Following its consideration at today’s Government meeting, the Minister said:
“I commissioned this Report to give us a fuller understanding of the options that might be available, and to ensure that the outcomes which might be realistic and attainable in respect of each course of action could be understood by the public. I want to thank the members of the Expert Technical Group led by Niamh McCullagh, for their work on such a complex and sensitive issue. Their excellent Report adds considerably to our knowledge on these matters and will help everyone involved to better understand the nature of the options now open to us.
The Report identifies five possible options for managing the site and appropriately responding to the discovery of infant remains interred at this location. These options, which range from the least intrusive to the potentially most intrusive intervention, are explored and presented in the context of internationally accepted best practice. In addition, the Report includes detailed geophysical and engineering surveys undertaken as part of the ETG’s work.
Table 1 below summarises the five technical options and includes estimates of cost and timescale.
“In the absence of directly comparable cases on a national or international level, it is significant that the ETG describes the particular and complex circumstances of the situation in Tuam as being unprecedented from a technical perspective. It is clear that the continued cooperation of all relevant government agencies will be required in moving forward”, said the Minister.
The Report will now be shared widely and Galway County Council will facilitate a structured consultation process with a strong focus around Tuam. This process will be designed to provide all interested parties with an opportunity to have their say and contribute to the decisions which must be made in respect of the site. Further details on the consultation process will be announced shortly by Galway County Council.
In encouraging all parties to actively engage with the process the Minister said, “I want to ensure that 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, whether as former residents of the home, relatives of those who may be buried there, or as local residents who live near the site”.
The Minister recognises and fully respects the potential diversity of sincerely held views on how these sensitive issues might best be addressed. “I know from experience that an informed debate does not necessarily make difficult decisions any easier”, added the Minister.
An Inter-Departmental Group, led by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, will provide an oversight role for the whole of Government in terms of strategy and overall approach for the project. The results of the consultation process will be reported back to the Inter-Departmental Group within 3 months and the Group will then propose a course of action for consideration by the Government.
The need for further technical assistance will be considered after the results of the consultation process are known and decisions are being taken by Government on a specific course of action.
The Minister also confirmed that decisions on the future of the Tuam site will be progressed while the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes continues its examination into what happened at this and other similar institutions. The independent Commission will separately finalise its reports in relation to the Tuam home.