Bessborough nuns should be questioned by gardaí, former resident urges

Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork

Nuns who presided over the running of the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork should be questioned under caution by gardaí, a woman who gave birth to an infant there nearly fifty years ago has claimed.

Limerick woman, Ann O'Gorman, who had a little girl called Evelyn at Bessborough when she was just 17 years old, says that gardaí need to intervene in order to question members of the religious order who are still alive.

Ann today presented gardaí in Cork with Bessborough extracts from the fifth report of the Commission of Investigation. She maintains that "obstruction of the investigation of the death (of her daughter) is likely" and requests that members of the religious order be forced to answer questions about their actions.h

Ann gave birth in the summer of 1971 at Bessborough. She heard her baby cry but she passed out and when she woke three days later she was told the infant had died. She asked if she could see where her daughter was buried but she was refused.

The date of birth for Evelyn was July 24, 1971, but her birth certificate records it as June 24, 1972. The death certificate lists the baby’s cause of death as prematurity, yet in another entry on the same document, the birth is described as “full term” and “normal”.

Ann says gardaí need to intervene in order to provide answers to the questions of women like her. She plans to continue her fight for justice.

I was sick for a while but I will get up again and keep on fighting. If anything happens to me I hope my children carry it out for me. That they will get justice for my baby. I am very disappointed with the Commission. It feels like they are going against us when we thought they were there for us.

The Sacred Heart Home opened in Bessborough, Co Cork, in 1922, managed by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.

June Goulding, a midwife who worked at Bessborough from 1951, described conditions there in her book The Light in the Window.

She said that women who gave birth at Bessborough were not allowed pain relief during labour or stitches after birth, and when they developed abscesses from breast feeding they were denied penicillin.

One nun who ran the labour ward in the 1950s also forbade any "moaning or screaming" during childbirth.

Girls who could not afford to make donations to the Sacred Heart order had to spend another three years after their babies were born working around the home to "make amends" for their pregnancy.

At Ms Goulding's first Bessborough birth, she asked someone at the hospital what type of painkillers were used in labour.

"Nobody gets any here, nurse. They just have to suffer," she was told.

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