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‘A funeral we’ll look forward to’: Victory for islanders as stolen skulls to be returned and reburied

After a campaign by islanders, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), has agreed to return 13 skulls taken from an isolated island in Ireland in 1890.

The remains of the human body were taken by Andrew Dixon and Alfred Haddon, both academics associated with TCD. They were taken from St Colman’s monastery in Inishbofin off Ireland’s west coastline.

Haddon’s diary entry records the theft. The skulls remain in Trinity’s Dublin campus ever since.

However, in recent years pressure has grown on Ireland’s oldest university for the return of the remains. They are believed to be between 400 and 500 years old. A consultation process was started last year.

Image: File photo of St Colman’s monastery in Inishbofin Island – skulls can be seen in the lower right corner. Pic from Trinity College Dublin
Image A scene from the present

On Wednesday, Trinity’s Provost Dr Linda Doyle announced the decision. She said that she was sorry for the inconvenience caused by keeping these remains. She also thanked the Inishbofin Community for their support and collaboration on the issue.

“We will now collaborate with the community to ensure the remains are returned in respect and in line with the community’s wishes.”

Read More: Trinity College Dublin responds to the demands of the islanders for 400-year-old skulls

Marie Coyle, an islander and activist, said to Sky News: “It’s almost like I can breath out.”

“We have faced many obstacles along the way. Although I had high hopes, there were many obstacles along the way.

It’s taken a long, long time. This is what the skulls [the skulls] deserve. It took a lot of energy, emotion, and effort. They were taken from us.”

Image: A craniometer is used to measure the skull of an islander on Inishbofin Island, 1893. Pic by Trinity College Dublin

Although a timeframe has not been established for the return, islanders plan to inter skulls at St Colman’s site where they were taken from more than 100 years ago.

Ms. Coyne said, “We’d love it done as quickly as possible.”

“It will be the funeral that we all look forward to attending. We are so happy they are coming home.


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