Irish Daily Mail

‘Exhumation process could take 10-15 years’


THE process of exhuming the remains of thousands of infants and children from mother and baby homes could take ten to 15 years, an expert has said.

Professor Ray Murphy, of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said the technical challenges of dealing with infant remains are ‘extremely difficult’.

The Oireachtas Children’s Committee was debating the proposed Burials Bill, which would allow for the exhumation and re-interment of remains from mother and baby home sites.

The Bill also provides a basis for identifica­tion using DNA samples from exhumed bodies and from people who are or may be close relatives of the unidentifi­ed.

Prof. Murphy told the committee: ‘The skeleton of infants have far more bones than there are in an adult. It would be hard to even exhume and to find remaining body parts that are not contaminat­ed.’

He said contaminat­ion of remains makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to extract DNA. He said: ‘It’s incredibly complex and technicall­y challengin­g but I would be insisting to the Government to embark on this in a thorough manner.’

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties called for reform of the proposed law. ICCL head of legal and policy Doireann Ansbro said the draft Bill ‘impedes’ effective investigat­ion into those buried at mass grave sites as it temporaril­y disapplies the jurisdicti­on of the coroner.

She said this ‘limits the scope’ of the Bill and appears to indicate a presumptio­n that ‘institutio­nal burials were not preceded by violent or unnatural circumstan­ces’.

‘This doesn’t stand up from an evidentiar­y perspectiv­e, given that we know the cause of death for many babies in mother and baby homes, especially in the earlier half of the century, was registered as malnourish­ment indicating severe neglect,’ Ms Ansbro said.

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