Catherine Corless, the historian who exposed the Tuam Babies scandal, has called on the Government to release the names of more than 900 children who died in Cork’s Bessborough Mother and Baby home.
In April, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes revealed that more than 900 children died in the religious-run home, and the Commission was only able to find burial records for 64 of those children.
Speaking ahead of a UCC art exhibition to honour survivors of Magdalene laundries, Mother and Baby homes, industrial schools, and forced adoption, Ms Corless told the Irish Examiner she believes the State is in possession of the names of the children who died at Bessborough.
“If the Commission of Investigation can tell us the number of children who died in Bessborough, then it also knows their names, ages and causes of death. We need to name these babies, so people can know who they were, and how they died.”
Ms Corless came to international prominence in 2014, when her research established that 796 children had died in the Tuam Mother and Baby home. Subsequent excavation proved that many of the children were buried illegally in a disused sewerage treatment system on the grounds of the former home.
The General Register Office, which holds the State’s records of all births, deaths and marriages, comes under the remit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
In June 2014, in the wake of the publication of Ms Corless’ research, the then-minister for social protection Joan Burton, released the names of the 796 children who died in the Tuam home.
“There is a clear precedent,” Ms Corless said.
If Joan Burton could release the Tuam babies’ names, there would appear to be no reason the Government can’t publish the names of the Bessborough babies, and the names of all of the babies who died in mother and baby homes.
A spokesperson for Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the minister would do everything in her power to facilitate the publication of the names of the Bessborough children, and to allow interested parties to access the relevant information.
They stopped short of committing that her department would publish the children’s names. When contacted, Ms Burton said she would support any action which might help survivors, including the publication of these names.
The Bessborough home opened in 1922 and was run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Some 70 years ago, Bessborough came to notoriety when the then-state chief medical officer Dr James Deeny sacked the labour ward matron and temporarily closed the home due to its high infant mortality rate.