The possible involvement of more mother and baby homes around the country into the current Commission of Investigation is to be considered, a Government spokesperson has said.

The spokesperson said a "small scoping" exercise would begin in the near future following agreement at Cabinet today. It is likely the details of the exercise will be announced by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone after St Patrick's Day.

It is expected that the possible expansion could result in more homes being brought under the terms of reference for the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

At present the commission is examining 14 named mother and baby homes as well as four county homes. Other homes are currently excluded from the scope of the commission.

The scoping exercise would likely last around six weeks and see if it is advisable to expand the scope of the Commission, which itself will have an input into the decision.

Earlier, gardaí said they were liaising with the local coroner in Co Galway, following the revelation that significant quantities of infants' remains were found on the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam.

It is understood any decision on garda involvement in the matter will be made following considerations by the coroner.

The matter was referred to the north Galway coroner by the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation, following analysis of bones found in two underground structures.

The 1962 Coroners' Act states that unexplained deaths have to be reported, regardless of when they are thought to have occurred.

Scientific analysis of the remains found in Tuam has dated them to the same period when the Bon Secours sisters operated a home in the town.

Legislation provides for referral to a coroner under several criteria.

These include the death of a child in care; when human remains are found or where there is any doubt as to the cause of death.

Records from the mother and baby home in Tuam list the cause of death in some but not all cases.

The Coroner for North Galway is charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding deaths in the Tuam area.

He is not making any public comment about the manner in which investigations regarding the mother and baby home may proceed.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for the sites of other mother and baby homes to be secured.

She also said it had been clear from the beginning that the inquiry cannot be limited to a select few homes.

She called on Minister for Children Catherine Zappone to publish the interim report of the commission of investigation.


Largest healthcare provider in Ireland

The Bon Secours Health System is the largest private healthcare provider in Ireland with 2,500 staff.

It has technically advanced hospitals in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Tralee.

This week it bought Barringtons Hospital in Limerick for just under €15m.

The company made a profit of €2.3m for the year ending December 2015.

The company has its origins in the Bon Secours religious order which originated in France and then expanded into Ireland in the 19th Century.

The company is led by a seven-member board of management which includes one Bon Secours sister.

However, three-quarters of the directors who served on its board between 1994 and 2016 were members of the religious congregation. 

And, according to Companies Office records, nuns acted as secretaries to the board for a little over half that time.

Of the total 25 directors listed for that period, 17 were listed as Bon Secours sisters or - where the title was not stated - as living in convents owned by the congregation.

They ranged in age from 48 to 76, and most were in their 60s at the time of their appointments.