Trinity College Dublin to return skulls to Inishbofin

The Inishbofin remains were the first case to be examined by the review group but they are also looking at Trinity’s links with slavery and the British Empire.

For example, TCD’s library is named after the philosopher George Berkeley, an 18th Century slave owner.

In 2022, National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) returned human remains and other sacred objects to Hawaii.

Representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs received two separate human remains, including a skull, and five sacred objects, at a ceremony held at the Ulster Museum.

It and some other museums in the UK have also examined potential links to the slave trade and are considering requests for items to be returned to Australia, Asia and South America.

But the remains to be returned by TCD were actually taken from their fellow Irish citizens on Inishbofin.

More than 150 current residents on the island signed a petition calling for the return and condemning “the criminal nature of how these remains came into the possession of Trinity College in the first place”.

The Inishbofin Development Company also wrote to Trinity and said the remains were “removed illegally without permission”.

“These people were part of the island community of Inishbofin and deserve to rest in peace in this sacred place they were laid to ground in,” their letter said.

In a statement following TCD’s decision to return the remains, Dr Linda Doyle said she was “sorry for the upset that was caused by our retaining of these remains and I thank the Inishbofin community for their advocacy and engagement with us on this issue”.

“We will now work with the community to ensure that the remains are returned in a respectful manner and in accordance with the community’s wishes,” she added.

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