Representatives of survivors of Tuam's mother and baby home have met local Catholic Archbishop Dr Michael Neary for the first time to discuss the long-running scandal surrounding the facility.

A spokesman for the Tuam Mother and Baby Home Alliance described the meeting, which was also attended by the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, as "very positive".

Dr Neary has acceded to their request to pray at the site with people they represent on condition that the event is low-key.

The alliance's spokesman said the meeting in Maynooth had meant a lot to those affected by the Tuam scandal.

He said Archbishop Neary had told the delegation he was "very anxious to deal with the hurt" caused to mothers and children in the facility and that he had offered to hold further meetings with those affected.

A church spokesman said Archbishop Neary had agreed to the alliance's request to pray at the site with survivors and families, on condition that the prayers would be offered in a low-key and appropriate way.

Dr Neary lives close to the site of the former home which was operated by the Bon Secours Sisters from 1925 to 196.

Many of the mothers who gave birth and worked there were drawn from the archdiocese's 57 parishes which span half of Co Galway, half of Co Mayo and part of Roscommon.

A spokesman for the conference said that Archbishop Neary had met individual survivors of the home previously but that today was the first time he had met a delegation representing residents and their families.

He added that it was also Archbishop Martin's first encounter with locals traumatised by the scandal.

The alliance's delegation comprised Michael O Flaherty a survivor, Breeda Murphy a relative of a former resident and Liam Tansey an advocate who is also a qualified social worker.

The Tuam scandal was exposed in 2014 when research by local historian Catherine Corless revealed that there were no burial records for 796 babies and children who had died in the Co Galway facility.

A Commission of Investigation was set up and in 2016 it revealed it had discovered "a substantial quantity of human remains" in the vicinity of the home's disused sewage tank.

The Government is preparing legislation to facilitate the conduct of further forensic excavations on a phased basis with the objective of identifying human remains through DNA testing and reinterring deceased residents appropriately.

Last September, the Government was told by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, that it should be possible to develop a voluntary scheme to allow for the collection of biological samples from survivors and others connected to Tuam's mother-and-baby home in advance of a law being enacted to underpin that process.

The minister said a report by family law expert Geoffrey Shannon gave her "strong hope" that that it will be possible to develop an administrative scheme in the coming months to allow for the collection of samples.

Last January, more than 20 survivors and relatives of former residents of the Tuam home had called for the immediate collection of their DNA samples to allow them to be banked to eliminate any delay in returning human remains to identifiable relatives for dignified burials.

The group said that in light of the age of survivors and relatives, and of the declining health of some, the State should begin collecting DNA samples immediately in an effort to positively identify the deceased.

Meanwhile, the three-person Commission of Investigation, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, is scheduled to publish its final report next February.

It will report on conditions in the Tuam home and in 14 other mother-and-baby homes along with four county homes.