Bessborough mother and baby home: Delay in seeking details of burials

Adoption campaigners have queried why the Mother and Baby Homes Commission has taken three years to issue a public call for information relating to the burials of children who died at the Bessborough home.

It comes as an Irish Examiner investigation revealed that children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, some of whom died as late as 1990, are buried in unmarked graves in a Cork City cemetery.

The three grave plots are located in St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork City. Two of the plots are unmarked, while another records just one name despite containing the remains of 16 children. Five of the children are connected to the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home.

The plots are owned by the now-closed St Anne’s Adoption Society and the St Patrick’s Orphanage in Cork. The third plot is a non-perpetuity plot indicating that it is unowned.

Earlier this month, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission made a public call for information relating to the burials of a “large number” of children who died at the home between 1922 and 1998.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said that Minister for Children Katherine Zappone must now ask the Commission why, “in three years of research, it has either not reported, or worse, has not even discovered, the basic facts that a single journalist with a far smaller budget was able to unearth in a few weeks”.

“Minister Zappone will no doubt be aware of the intense disquiet, which greeted her predecessor Dr James Reilly’s flawed terms of reference for the commission announced in January 2015, which survivors and campaigners correctly predicted was a ploy to treat Tuam as an isolated case of mismanaged burials when in fact the greater human rights abuses concerned forced adoptions, illegal vaccine trials, enforced labour, illegal incarceration, extraordinary rendition of Irish women and girls from the UK back to Ireland and wholesale trafficking of non-marital children to the US for adoption,” said Ms Lohan.

She also said the connections between the Bessborough home and St Anne’s Adoption Society must now be fully investigated.

She also alleged that complaints of “wholesale criminality” by survivor and campaigning groups have been “completely ignored” by successive government ministers and the Adoption Authority.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors said he was “appalled” by the revelations and called for a Garda investigation into the operation of the former mother and baby home.

“We are outraged by these latest revelations concerning Bessborough Mother and Baby home,” said Mr Redmond. “We are appalled by the casual attitudes of the order to the deaths and burials of babies and children since 1922 right up to 1990 at least.

“Altered and missing records mean that the full truth will never be known about the notorious Bessborough Mother and Baby home and the hundreds of deaths that occurred there. It is long past time that the gardaí were called in to investigate these matters with a view to prosecutions.”

In a statement, the Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary said: “As indicated previously all records relating to Bessborough were passed to the HSE in 2011 and are now in the possession of Tusla. We will continue to deal directly with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes on all such matters.”

Similarly, the Sisters of Mercy said they would “deal directly with this Commission on all related matters”.

More on this topic

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Bethany Home survivors disappointed over Government's refusal to extend 'fast track’ redress schemeBethany Home survivors disappointed over Government's refusal to extend 'fast track’ redress scheme

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