New technologies could lead to identification of Tuam mother-and-baby home remains
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New technologies could lead to identification of Tuam mother-and-baby home remains

THE REMAINS of those buried in mass graves at the site of the former Tuam mother-and-baby home could now be identified thanks to the emergence of new technologies.

A team of scientists from University College Dublin and Trinity College have concluded that significant advances in DNA testing in the last five to ten years.

The team are challenging the findings of an expert group set up by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, which cast doubts on hopes that genetic technology could identify remains.

The expert technical group found that there would be severe difficulties with the exhumation and identification of the remains due to them being “commingled” over the years kept in an underground chamber.

The Tuam home was in operation from 1925 to 1961 and was run by Sisters of the Bon Secours.

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Five years ago, local historian Catherine Corless discovered official records showing that 798 infants and children had died there.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation was set up to look into the allegations.

In March of last year, the commission confirmed the discovery of juvenile remains in “significant quantities” in the chambers at the former home.

Now, the team of Dublin scientists are arguing that the analysis up until this point has been “viewed through the prism of a technology that is at least 20 years old”.

Furthermore, new techniques such as those used to identify the remains of 1916 rebel Thomas Kent in 2015 have “dramatically changed the genetics landscape” and could facilitate developments in the identification of the human remains at the site.

The UCD/Trinity group went so far as to say that a small sample taken from the petrous part of the base of the skull would yield good-quality DNA.

The findings have now been submitted to Galway County Council.

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Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, Dr Stephen Donoghue said that the expert group were using research from 20 years ago, which was mostly based on criminal forensic data basis and does not need to be the case here.