The burial plot at the former mother and baby home at Bessborough in Cork has been examined by the Commission of Investigation, which is examining 18 such institutions.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the examination at Bessborough involves "initial testing".

The home attained notoriety some 70 years ago when the then-State's Chief Medical Officer Dr James Deeny closed it temporarily and sacked the labour ward's nun-matron because of its high child mortality rate.

Dr James Deeny shut the home down temporarily in the 1950s

Today in the Dáil, responding to Cork Labour TD Seán Sherlock, Minister Zappone revealed that the home's burial plot has been investigated by the Mother and Baby Home Commission in advance of its next interim report due in mid-March.

She said she understood the commission has examined the burial plot at Bessborough but has not conducted a geophysical examination of the site.

However, she reassured Mr Sherlock that burial arrangements at Bessborough are being examined and they will be reported in the commission's report due to be delivered to her on 15 March. 

She added that the statutory probe's "initial testing may lead to more invasive test excavations if it believes such work would be of assistance".

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The minister reiterated that the burial ground allied with Sean Ross Abbey, another Catholic-run home in Co Tipperary, has undergone a more detailed geophysical examination following the receipt of further information from a member of the public.

The Tuam burial ground has already undergone a  geophysical scan and enhanced excavations have been promised by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before the end of this year once enabling legislation has been passed by the Oireachtas.

Earlier, Ms Zappone published the terms of reference for a two-month-long examination of the legal options regarding the collection of DNA samples from people who believe their relatives' remains may be buried on the site of the Tuam home.

She said the review by the Government's Special Rapporteur on Children's Rights, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, is in response to an appeal from the Tuam Home Survivors' Network for the government to arrange for DNA samples to be collected from them.

The terms of reference are understood to take account of the impact of recently enacted data protection legislation on the proposed collection process.