Political and campaigning reaction to latest report on Tuam Mother and Baby Home

Galway Bay fm newsroom:

A legal expert has given the go-ahead to collect DNA from the survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in an effort to identify their relatives.

Family law expert Geoffrey Shannon says this won’t breach privacy laws.

The Department of Children will have to draft legislation to pave the way for biological samples to be collected.

It’s hoped that human remains can be returned to relatives.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson for children, Anne Rabbitte, says Dr Shannon’s report must be backed up with immediate legislation.

Meanwhile, the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance has provided the following statement to FYI Galway:

Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance

We are particularly pleased to see that Dr. Shannon proposes the opportunity to take DNA samples in a timely fashion via a voluntary administrative scheme.  Such biological samples from relatives would then be stored securely until legislation is in place.  This is essentially what our members, namely  Sana Tansey and Emer Quirke proposed and which Taoiseach Varadkar admitted was a reasonable request.

It is comforting to note that no DNA profiles can be constructed arising out of the samples until  legislation  is in place and we are assured it is possible to generate DNA from the remains of the lost children.  The DNA is being collected for that sole purpose.  The safe storage of DNA is paramount and we are provided with an assurance it  will not be available or used for any  purpose other than matching.  If the possibility is not there to match for any reason, then the DNA will be destroyed.  It is valuable data and must be treated as such.  Advises we have received suggest the possibilities of advancing technologies providing new opportunities all the time; only a couple of months ago another victim of 9/11 was identified some eighteen years later.

DNA collection being  voluntary, open to the individuals concerned who will  provide informed consent.   Ownership rights and compliance with GDPR legislation underpin the process – with ownership of their own DNA as recommended by Dr. Shannon  remaining  the property of the participant who has the authority to withdraw consent and therefore from the process at any stage.  This is a most welcome suggestion.  Further the opportunity for the participant to nominate a person in the event that they pass away prior to completion of the process ensures the opportunity for matching continues for a period.

The Minister on speaking to us yesterday mentioned that she would request her Department officials to put in place a voluntary administrative programme.  Our Alliance with two experts working in the field  who initially  proposed this model  hope  to  contribute in an advisory capacity as we suggested this to the Minister.  Also advised and welcome is the recommendation to communicate throughout the process  with those most affected.

Finally, we are grateful to Dr. Shannon for  this report, which looks favourably on our request to begin the process of banking DNA from concerned family members and survivors without the necessity of awaiting a lengthy legislation process  and thank him for the  person-centered approach he has undertaken, advocating for those who are the most vulnerable.  

– Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance