A mother who "lost her son to adoption" has branded plans to build on former Bessborough land “an abhorrent act of desecration” to the memories of the hundreds of babies who died there.
Mary Slattery, who told today’s oral hearing that she “lost her firstborn to adoption” in 1979, said: “We don’t want their resting places disturbed or developed.”
She was among several people with deep personal connections to Bessborough in Cork who made powerful and emotional contributions towards the end of the online hearing.
She said she felt like she was carrying the emotion of the 9,000 or so women who went into mother and baby home institutions over the years.
“We lived in a perverse society that demonised women who had sex outside marriage," said Ms Slattery.
“This is the area where families come to grieve, where the future generations can come and pay respect to the past generations.
“Mothers and their adult children do not want to be retraumatised with this proposed development.
“Under no circumstances should the burial area of the babies in Bessborough and those mothers who died there be forensically recovered and exhumed.
“They have been in place for over 70 years — may they rest in peace and not be disturbed.”
She called for the site to be handed over to the State, and for a memorial, such as a wildflower garden with water, to be created there.
Carmel Cantwell, a member of Know my Own and the Bessborough Support Group, told the hearing that her mother was told by the nuns who ran Bessborough that her baby was buried on the grounds.
“Not knowing the exact place her baby was buried has caused her great stress in her life,” said Ms Cantwell.
“She has had some comfort in visiting Bessborough as this was the last place she saw her baby alive.
“She has regularly said a prayer for him at the memorial at Bessborough and has enjoyed this space as a place for reflection.”
She said people who come to the Bessborough folly to honour the children and mothers who died there over the years do not want apartment blocks overlooking “this special place”.
“Any building here will compound the hurt felt by those mothers, children and extended families who have a relative buried here,” she said.
“The 'Children's Burial Ground' must be preserved. Anything else would be a travesty.”