In an interview with Cork’s Red FM, Dr Crean said the story of what happened at the home should be told.
“This is part of our national story in the 20th century. It is only unfolding slowly. The truth may be very difficult. But it is best we have the truth in relation to it,” he said.
In 1922 the Sacred Heart Home in Bessborough, Co Cork, managed by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, was opened. Similar homes were set up by them in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, in the 1930s.
Following the discovery of human remains in a mass grave on the grounds of the mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, there have been calls for similar investigations to take place in other facilities. The Mother and Baby Homes Commission says there is no decision to carry out any excavations at Bessborough.
June Goulding, a midwife who worked at Bessborough from 1951, described conditions there in The Light in the Window.
She said women who gave birth at Bessborough were not given pain relief in labour or stitches after birth, and when they developed abscesses from breastfeeding they were denied penicillin.
One nun who ran the labour ward in the 1950s also forbade any “moaning” in 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 painkillers were used in labour. “Nobody gets any here, nurse. They just have to suffer,” she was told.
In the wake of the Tuam revelations many women who endured severe treatment at the hands of nuns in Bessborough have contacted radio stations to tell their story.