Supporting Local News

Remains to be returned to Omey after analysis

Centuries old skeletal remains excavated from Omey Island over 30 years ago may be reburied there once a specialist analysis process has been completed.

Minister for Local Government, Darragh O’Brien, in reply to a Dáil question from Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, said that the remains had been excavated and taken from the island back in 1992-93.

He said that the ‘rescue excavation’ had been carried out under licence because of fears that the remains could be ‘lost to the sea’ due to coastal erosion.

Minister O’Brien said that scientific analysis of the remains indicated that they dated back to between the 7th and 15th centuries AD – further ‘forensic-level expert analyses’ were now being carried out, he added.

“The focus is now on assessing what further specialist analysis of the human remains is required, so that all, and in particular the modern inhabitants of Omey, may properly understand the lives and deaths of those buried on the site in the distant past.

“It is acknowledged that there is a wish to return these remains to the island and the NMS (National Monuments Service) has been in contact with various individuals from the local community on the matter.

“I understand that discussions with the National Museum on the potential reburial of some of the remains will take place following the completion of the analyses,” said Minister O’Brien.

He added that the completion of the analyses could take a further 12 to 18 months to complete and would involve a re-cataloguing of the remains, and a review of the osteoarchaeological [the study of bones found on old sites) reports.

Deputy Ó Cuív told the Connacht Tribune that he had received representations from people in the Claddaghduff area who would like to see the remains returned to the island at some stage.

“There is a process to go through in terms of analysing and dating the remains but when this is completed, it is the wish of local people, that they would be reinterred on the island,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

Omey is a tidal island which is accessible either by car or on foot during low tides – the last permanent resident, Pascal Whelan, passed away in 2017.

The island is still the graveyards location for the Claddaghduff area while for a number of years a horse racing event took place on the sands there. Every summer the island attracts thousands of tourists – at one stage in the 1800s, Omey Island had a resident population of around 400.

Photo by Joe O’Shaughnessy: Human remains which were exposed by erosion on Omey Island in 1990.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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