Draft laws which will enable the excavation of remains at the Tuam mother and baby site have been published.
The heads of the Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill will provide the legal basis for the exhumation and forensic analysis of remains of babies and children at the site in order to identify them.
Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said it could take until the end of next year before such excavations begin.
She said she is sorry for the families that this is just the beginning of the process, but the drafting of the laws has been a complex process.
The Bill still has to be enacted by the Dáil and following on from that, a government agency to manage the excavation will be established.
Minister Zappone said the legislation is not just for Tuam but could potentially be used for other sites if they meet criteria for the Government to intervene.
The cost of the process will be between €6 and €13 million, she said, and the Sisters of Bon Secours Ireland will pay €2.5m towards the cost.
A Commission of Investigation was established following allegations about the deaths of 800 babies and children in Tuam over a number of decades and the manner in which they were buried.
Death records for 796 children have been found for the home at Tuam.
In 2016, the commission revealed that a substantial quantity of human remains had been found on the site in the vicinity of a disused sewage tank.
The remains dated from the time when the Mother and Baby home operated from 1925 to 1961 and were of babies aged between 35 foetal weeks and three years old.