Bessborough survivor demands Government excavate the site for human remains

A Cork woman who was reunited with her son 50 years after giving birth as a 17-year-old in Bessborough House is urging the Government to excavate human remains at the home and help other mothers to be reunited with their lost children, writes Rob McNamara.

Joan McDermott, from Mitchelstown but now living in Midleton, said she was forced to regularly cut grass with a scissors in the eight months she spent in Bessborough House.

She gave birth to her son on a makeshift examination table with no doctor present.

Ms McDermott said she was polishing floors when she went into labour with her son in 1967 and was then locked in a room overnight before a nun released her at 8am the following morning and told her to walk to a medical room after the baby’s head had crowned.

Once there another mother, who had recently given birth, held Ms McDermott’s leg up and a nun then delivered the child.

After breastfeeding for seven weeks, her son was taken from her and she did not see him again for 50 years.

“When I saw my son for the first time in 50 years he made the most profound statement. He asked me ‘mam, how old am I really?’. He didn’t know how old he was. He had no birth cert, he had never been abroad. He has a birth cert now. You and I take those things for granted,” she said.

She began looking for son a few years ago and made contact with Tusla.

“Having kept a secret for 46 years, now that I’m talking about it, I want to keep talking.

“I cannot stand bureaucracy and lies and I was lied to the whole way. They don’t want you to meet up with your children, seriously.” She is now involved with Irish First Mothers, an advocacy group for women whose pregnancies and parental rights were violated in Irish mother and baby homes.

“We are calling on the Government to greatly consider excavating Bessborough because those women need answers,” she said.

“Speak to somebody. There are groups on Facebook like Irish First Mothers, even a first phonecall to Tusla, make the first step because you’d be surprised what can come out of it. It depends on what the woman wants.

“Every case is so individual. Whatever a woman has in her heart or needs to the answers to, she has the right to to know. Some women just want to know that there children are alive and kicking, it’s all they need to know. They should have the right to that.”

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