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Tuam babies: Excavation of children's mass grave to begin in 2019

The home has since been demolished and a housing estate was built nearby Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Almost 800 children died at the home during its 36 years in operation

The excavation of a site containing the remains of hundreds of children buried in unmarked graves in the Republic of Ireland is to begin next year.

The site of the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, is expected to be opened in late 2019.

Forensic tests will be carried out to identify each child before "respectful" reburials.

The Catholic-run institution housed unmarried mothers and babies from 1925 to 1961 and had high infant mortality.

There was an outcry last year when tests revealed "significant quantities" of human remains had been buried in "underground chambers" at the site.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A funeral procession in remembrance of the dead children was held in Dublin in October

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said work would begin late next year as legislation to conduct the excavations needs to be passed.

"We'll have to pass that legislation in the new year, and we'd envisage carrying out the first excavations in the second half of 2019," he said.

"In the meantime though, we can start appointing the experts and the ground team who'll be doing the actual work."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Catherine Corless collated hundreds of death certificates for the infants who died in the home

The Tuam mother-and-baby home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters, a congregation of Catholic nuns.

Official records show that 798 infants and children died at the home and it is believed many were buried there.

In 2014, amateur historian Catherine Corless raised questions about the fate of the children and babies who died at the home during its 36 years in operation.

She had spent years trying to find out what happened to them.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Protesters held up placards of the names of babies buried at Tuam during the Pope's visit to Ireland in August

Ms Corless established that although there were death certificates for 796 infants, no burial records existed, which raised fears of a mass grave.

It is thought that the children died of natural causes or malnutrition but the secretive, undignified manner of their burials caused widespread outrage in Ireland and beyond.

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