Historian Catherine Corless has welcomed progress in the effort to exhume infant remains from the site of the former mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Ms Corless, whose research prompted renewed examinations at the site, said the passage of the Institutional Burials Bill was a great relief.

Her research identified that there were no burial records for 796 babies who died at the home between 1925 and 1961.

The legislation was approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas last night and is now being referred to President Michael D Higgins for his consideration.

The Bill allows for the excavation and recovery of remains from the burial site on the Dublin Road in Tuam and also clears the way for DNA identification to be carried out on the bones.

Ms Corless hopes that work can begin in the autumn.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation has determined that "significant quantities of human remains" were interred at the site.

Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman has said an Office of the Tuam Director of Authorised Interventions will be established on foot of the legislation. This will oversee the process of exhumation and analysis.

The works will be carried out on a phased basis, with recovery of human remains following the initial excavation. Bones taken from the chambers in which infant bodies were placed will then be analysed, and subject to DNA cross referencing, where possible.

It is planned to then return remains to the families of the deceased, or to re-inter them in line with the wishes of relatives.

It is anticipated that excavations will be carried out inside and outside a small walled area, which locals have tended to for years.

Ms Corless said extensive plans were in place to allow for the process to commence and that she hoped these could now be advanced in a timely fashion.