Monday, 25 September 2017

Tuam Expert Group Update

Tuam Expert Group Update 

The Expert Technical Group is continuing in its work on the drafting of the technical report. Geophysical data that had been collected at the site in July continues to be processed and it is expected to be available for analysis in the coming weeks. 

The Group has further consulted with archaeological, anthropological and forensic specialists in DNA in order to assess the potential of any future analysis, and particularly the potential problematic issues. The Coroner for North Galway, Dr Val Costello, has also kindly been assisting with queries relating to the site. 

The team met with the National Monuments Service, whom have advised on possible archaeological aspects relating to the environs of the site at Tuam. 

There have been various communications with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, who are world leader in humanitarian forensic action and best practices in relation to community engagement. 

see page 2 of booklet

Second Stage document is due shortly.

First stage document included the following options:

This first-stage document sets out the options that have been identified by the group, specifically in relation to dealing with the site from a technical perspective. The second stage document will explore each of these options in substantial detail. Each option, or scenario, will be examined in relation to the necessary requirements, what the expected outcome would be, and what the feasibility, timeline and possible cost is for the implementation of each option. 

Option 1: Baseline Scenario This option involves no further investigative work at the site, once the preliminary survey and DNA testing results have been considered. The site would then be returned to being managed as a site of memorial. The requirements and outcomes of this situation will be examined more completely in the coming weeks. 

Option 2: Excavate and Recover Human Remains from the Memorial Garden This option would involve the complete forensic archaeological excavation of the structure identified as containing juvenile human remains by the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation (3rd March 2017). The structure is one of two identified within the area of the memorial garden. It has been reported that this is an elongated structure, comprising 20 chambers, in which human remains have been discovered in 17 of those chambers. Information relating to the chambers state that all are deep and narrow, and are broadly consistent in size. The human remains within appear to be those of infants with no formal burial evident. From the evidence thus far, it seems that this structure is the only part of the memorial garden that contains human remains. However, in any forensic archaeological recovery of these remains, there would be a high potential risk of disturbance to the wider area of the memorial garden. It is therefore likely that the entire walled area (255 sq. m) would need to be archaeologically excavated, in order that all evidential and contextual information can be protected and examined. A consideration of the feasibility of this scenario will be determined through the consultation process that is currently on-going

Option 3: Excavate All Areas of Interest This option requires full consideration of results from the current programme of nonintrusive investigative work. A comprehensive appraisal of the resulting evidence from geophysical survey would therefore be necessary. In addition, this option would require the further collection and assessment of witness statements and historical records. From this evidence, it may become possible to identify further areas of potential interest, which subsequently could lead to archaeological excavation. The aim of this option is the recovery of human remains from the site in a targeted manner based on information acquired. This would logically include the area of the memorial garden and the complete forensic excavation and recovery of human remains at other targeted areas that are identified. Any potentially relevant areas of interest cannot be speculated upon at this stage but the assessment of further excavations would be based upon a multi-disciplinary consideration of those areas. 

Option 4: Excavate Total Available Area This would represent the most intrusive methodology that might be applied. This option would require the full forensic investigation and archaeological excavation of all available ground formerly occupied by the Mother and Baby Home at Tuam, in order to physically and practically exhaust all potential for further relevant and preserved human remains. The fact that the site had been a Union Workhouse, and later a military barracks, prior to functioning Page 5 of 5 as a Mother and Baby Home is a foreseeable complication to this option. As a result, there could be significant disturbance to historical burials and other archaeological features that do not relate to the operation of the Mother and Baby Home. Furthermore, while extensive, the excavation of all available areas could not be considered conclusive. Just over 0.4 hectares of the property which was once within the boundary of the Mother and Baby Home is now open ground (i.e. playground, memorial garden, private roadways). The remaining 2.3 hectares has since that time had houses, private gardens, sheds and public roadways built upon it (approximately 85% of the original site). Option 5: Programme of DNA analysis Once the potential preservation of DNA evidence has been established, this option may be applied to any of the above options that include further exhumation/recovery of human remains, that is, Options 2-4. Therefore, this is currently a floating option. Once the feasibility of DNA identification is investigated this option can be considered more fully. At this stage, a number of observations have been made by experts in this area. These are factors such as the potential degradation of the quality of DNA that can be recovered. The commingled/intermixed nature of the remains, alongside the understanding that these are infant/juvenile skeletal remains, potentially poses challenges that need further consideration.

 The second-stage document will develop these options with regard to feasibility, requirements, expected outcomes, timelines and estimated costs. The final Technical Report on the Tuam Site shall be delivered to the Minister by the end of September 2017.

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