The terms of reference in relation to the legal options regarding the collection of DNA samples from people who believe their relatives' remains are buried at the site of the former Tuam Mother and Baby Home have been published.

Last month, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone responded to an appeal from the Tuam Home Survivors' Network for the Government to arrange for DNA samples to be collected from them to see if they matched the human remains of babies and children discovered at the site.

The minister announced that the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Children's Rights, Dr Geoffery Shannon, would examine whether current legislation permits the collection of such samples.

The terms of reference request a report within eight weeks on issues which are understood to include the impact of recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules on the proposed collection process.

The terms of reference state that Dr Shannon should examine "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".

Dr Shannon is also requested to examine the proposal in light of current laws governing "the collection of biological samples for comparison purposes and the extent to which any relevant family rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights might apply".

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In a statement, Ms Zappone recalled that the Survivors' Network had urged the Government to begin collecting their DNA samples immediately in light of the age profile and health status of many survivors.

Their statement of two weeks ago explained that the purpose of collecting samples would be to compare against any DNA profiles which may be generated from the juvenile human remains found at the site and, if possible, to make positive identifications.

Announcing the terms of reference, Minister Zappone said: "These issues will ultimately be addressed within the bespoke legislation that is currently being scoped by my Department.

"However, I am very sympathetic to the concerns of survivors that their ages and health profiles introduce an element of urgency."

Dr Shannon has already produced a key report for Government on the human rights aspects of the search by families for their loved ones who may have been buried, while inmates of the home which operated from 1925 and 1961 under the management of the Catholic Bon Secours congregation of nuns. 

Last November, Ms Zappone announced an enhanced excavation of the grounds of the Tuam facility, which the Taoiseach has said will begin before the year's end once appropriate legislation has been passed by the Oireachtas.

Local historian Catherine Corless has discovered death certificates for 796 child residents, but no burial records.

In response, the Government established the Mother and Baby Home Commission which is investigating the Tuam home and 17 other similar institutions.

In 2016 it announced that a significant volume of juvenile humans' remains had been discovered in the vicinity of a sewage treatment plant on the site. 

Minister Zappone also announced that the burial plot at the former Mother and Baby Home at Bessborough in Cork has been examined by the commission.