DNA plan call for all institution survivors

By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Reporter

The Government has been asked to “widen its horizons” and offer DNA sampling to all former residents of mother and baby homes and related institutions.

The call comes after Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone confirmed earlier this week that a report examining if it is possible to start taking DNA samples from survivors of the Tuam mother and baby home will be completed within eight weeks.

The samples would be to compare against any DNA profiles which may be generated from the remains found at the site and, if possible, to make positive identifications.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors (CMABS) said the Government needs to extend any offer of DNA samples beyond just survivors of the Tuam facility.

“The Government needs to widen their horizons and offer free and secure DNA tests to every person who was in an institution of any description where there are no records of one or both parents,” said Mr Redmond. 

We have been calling for a free and secure national DNA database for all adopted people, particularly those illegally adopted, so that families may be reunited while there is still time.

He said survivors of such institutions and their families “have a right to answers and reunification”.

“A voluntary scheme allowing living survivors to donate their DNA needs to commence as soon as possible,” he said. 

“The track record of Minister Zappone is one of wilfully slow progress and a national DNA database for survivors must not fall victim to more stalling and committees and scoping exercises. This is a matter of urgency.”

Paul Redmond
Paul Redmond

Special rapporteur on child protection, Geoffrey Shannon, is preparing the report for Ms Zappone and has been asked to examine whether or not it is possible to start taking DNA samples from survivors of the Tuam mother and baby home within the current legislative framework. 

He has been asked to make particular reference to:

  • The collection of biological samples for comparison purposes;
  • How best to ensure that the rights of those who wish to give biological samples could be safeguarded in respect of sensitive personal data and informed consent;
  • The extent to which any relevant family rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) might apply.

Last October, Dr Shannon published a report on the human rights issues arising from the discovery of infant remains in Tuam, in which he specifically indicated that Article 8 of the ECHR likely applies in the case of Tuam and more broadly.

This report read: “A failure to provide relatives with definitive and/or credible information may fall foul of the positive obligation under Article 8, even where the death occurred before the Convention came into force in the relevant country, where the failure to provide information continues following the coming into force of the ECHR.”

Dr Shannon also stated that the State may be party to the “continuing offence” of preventing a lawful and decent burial unless it fully exhumes, sorts, and buries infant remains found in unmarked plots connected to former institutions.

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