St Finbarr’s infant burials may not be investigated

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) have refused to say whether all the infant burials discovered in unmarked graves in a Cork city cemetery will be investigated.

An Irish Examiner investigation, published last month, revealed that three grave plots in St Finbarr’s cemetery, in Cork City, contain the remains of at least 21 children — some of whom were buried as late as 1990.

Two of the graves are unmarked, while the third has just one name, despite 16 children being buried in the plot.

One of the unmarked plots is owned by the now closed St Anne’s Adoption Society, while the largest plot was owned by the St Patrick’s Orphanage, run by the Mercy Sisters.

It operated a nursery for St Anne’s Adoption Society. The final plot is a non-perpetuity plot, indicating that it is unowned.

All three plots contain children who were in the care of the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home — one of the institutions under the remit of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.

The remainder of the infants — one of whom died as late as 1988 and is in an unmarked grave — have no connection to Bessborough and are therefore outside the remit of the commission.

However, they represent the same cohort of infant deaths being examined — namely, the children of unmarried women who were to be adopted.

The Irish Examiner asked both the commission and the DCYA if all of the burials in the plots would be investigated and if the terms of reference would be extended to include St Anne’s Adoption Society.

The DCYA said there are “no plans” to further extend the commission’s terms of reference, saying it had “sufficient scope to examine the issues raised, in so far as they relate to the children who were resident for a time in the named institutions [listed under the terms of reference]”.

Asked again if all of the burials — including those which are not connected to Bessborough — would be examined, the DCYA said it was “not in a position to address the question”, as it does not hold the records of St Anne’s Adoption Society or those of the cemetery.

When this information was then offered to the DCYA, it responded by stating that the Irish Examiner should “contact the commission directly”.

The same question was put to the commission, which responded one week later, but declined to answer.


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