No surveys planned at former Mother and Baby Home in Cork

There are "no plans at present" to undertake a geophysical survey at the site of the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home - although investigators have visited the site.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation carried out a geophysical survey at a reported children's burial site at the grounds of the former Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home in Tipperary last week.

The Bessborough, Sean Ross Abbey and the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Homes were run by the same order - the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The Bessborough Little Angels Plot.
The Bessborough Little Angels Plot.

Director of the MBHCOI, Ita Mangan, said the Commission has "no plans at present" to carry out a geophysical survey at the site but said that burial arrangements at Bessborough will be addressed in a report the Commission will submit to the Minister in March.

"The burial arrangements at Bessborough are being examined and will be reported on in the burials report which we propose to submit to the Minister in March. We have looked at the grounds but have not conducted a geophysical or similar examination of Bessborough," she said.

Death registers for both Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey were handed over to the HSE by the Order in 2011.

In the case of Bessborough, the register shows that 470 infants and 10 women died in Bessborough between 1934 and 1953. A total of 273 deaths took place in just a six-year period between 1939 and 1944. However, the Order reported 353 deaths to State inspectors in this period.

Running to more than 50 pages, it lists each child’s name, date of death, former residence of the deceased, gender, age at last birthday, profession (which is marked ‘son’ or ’daughter’ in most cases), cause of death, duration of illness, initials of the officer recording the death, and the date when the death was registered.

The principal cause of death in some 20% of the deaths is marasmus (severe malnutrition). It is unclear where all of these children are buried.

Last year, an Irish Examiner investigation revealed that children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home and the former St Anne's Adoption Society who died as late as 1990 are buried in unmarked graves in a Cork city cemetery.

Three grave plots in St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork city were found to contain the remains of at least 21 children. Two of the three plots are completely unmarked. The third records just one name despite 16 children being buried in the grave.

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