The terms of reference and timeline have been set for an examination of legal options over DNA sampling in connection with the former Mother and Baby Home at Tuam.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has asked Dr Geoffrey Shannon to consider what actions may be possible under existing laws, following a call from the Tuam Home Survivors' Network.
The group has called on the Government to begin collecting their DNA samples immediately, in light of the age profile and health status of the survivors.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said: "The purpose of collecting samples would be to compare against any DNA profiles which may be generated from the juvenile human remains found at the site and, if possible, to make positive identifications."
Minister Zappone added: "These issues will ultimately be addressed within the bespoke legislation that is currently being scoped by my department.
"However, I am very sympathetic to the concerns of survivors that their ages and health profiles introduce an element of urgency."
She has asked Dr Shannon to consider what may be possible within the current legislative framework, with particular reference to:
- the collection of biological samples for comparison purposes
- the extent to which any relevant family rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights might apply
- how best to ensure that the rights of those who wish to give biological samples could be safeguarded in respect of sensitive personal data
Dr Shannon is to provide a report to the minister within eight weeks.
Children's remains discovered
Excavations at the Tuam site are due to begin late this year, if the Government passes the necessary legislation on time.
The State inquiry into mother and baby homes in 2017 confirmed that 'significant quantities' of human remains had been found on the Bon Secours site.
The State Commission of Investigation report identified human remains in 17 out of 20 chambers within the boundaries of what is currently referred to as the memorial garden at the Tuam site.
The report suggested that as many as 796 children may have been buried there between 1925-1961.
When the excavation of the site was announced, Minister Zappone said a team of officials from different Government Departments would be assembled to draft legislation allowing for the excavation.
She said the excavation would be the first of its kind with a team of experts - including forensic archaeologists and DNA experts likely to be brought in from outside the country.
It was estimated the cost of the excavation could run anywhere between €6m and €13m.
Additional reporting: Sean Defoe