The Government's Special Rapporteur on Children's Rights is to examine whether current legislation permits the collection of DNA samples from survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home and from their relatives.

The development was revealed in a letter late this afternoon from Minister for Children Katherine Zappone to representative groups associated with the home.

Earlier this week, more than 20 members of the Tuam Mother and Baby Support Group issued an urgent call for their DNA to be collected and banked to eliminate any delay in returning human remains to identifiable relatives for dignified burials.

The survivors highlighted their advancing age and in some cases, their frailty.

On Tuesday, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the request appeared to be a reasonable one and said he and Ms Zappone would give it consideration.

This afternoon's letter from Ms Zappone says Dr Geoffrey Shannon's examination will be done in the context of what is scientifically possible.

Last October, the rapporteur published a report reviewing the human rights' issues that appeared to arise following the discovery in 2016 of juvenile human remains at the site of the Tuam home.

The statutory Commission of Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes said that a "significant quantity of human remains" lie in the vicinity of the home's septic tank.

Ms Zappone also tells the groups that the Government has begun scoping the legislation required to further excavate the controversial site, an exercise the Taoiseach has promised would begin later this year.

Special Report: Inside the Tuam Mother and Baby Home

She says the priority bill is the responsibility of a new bespoke unit in her department to which additional staff from other departments are expected to be assigned in the coming weeks. 

She reiterates that there is no precedent for this kind of project in an Irish context, and that it is vital that the Government "gets it right, in the interests of the survivors, relatives and the dignity of those buried at the site…". 

Ms Zappone adds that the approach taken will be further informed by the Commission of Inquiry's report in March on burials at some of the 18 homes, including Tuam, which are within its remit.

The minister concludes the letter by assuring the groups that in parallel with the legislative project, the State will work on sourcing appropriate expertise to carry out the excavation works.