Thursday 19 October 2017

Angel plot in former home may contain remains of 300 infants

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than 300 infants may be buried in the angel's plot at the former Mother and Baby home in Castlepollard, Westmeath, according to a record of deaths released yesterday.

The details of 203 deaths, recorded between 1935 and 1971, including mothers, babies and one nun, were revealed yesterday

If the suspected number of stillborn babies is added to the list it would mean around 300 are buried in the angel's plot at the home, according to the Castlepollard Mother and Baby home group, which is made up of former residents, family members and supporters from the former home in County Westmeath. The publication of the deaths over several decades is another sad reminder of the legacy left by the often harsh regime of care of unmarried mothers and their babies.

Spokesman Paul Redmond, who was born at the home, said around 4,000 women and girls went through the home and it had a similar number of births.

"After a respectful and dignified discussion followed by a group vote, we are releasing the names of every baby, child, and mother known to have died at the institution during its 36-year operation from 1935 to 1971," he said.

He said all the lives of those who died in the home are "equal and worthy of respect and remembrance" whether they were stillbirths or not.

The group said there is a walled and well cordoned angel's plot at the home and it is almost certain the babies who had their births and deaths registered are buried there.

Causes of death included heart disease, haemorrhage, TB, pneumonia, whooping cough, cerebral tumour and bronchitis.

The latest toll follows the discovery of significant quantities of human remains in at least 17 of the 20 underground chambers at the Tuam Mother and Babies home.

The infant remains in Tuam had an age-at-death ranging from approximately 35 foetal weeks to two to three years. The ages of the babies recorded as dying in Castlepollard include many who were hours, days or just months old.

The Government is under pressure to carry out more test excavations to determine if there are any more unmarked graves near mother and baby homes.

Pressure

There is pressure to extend the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone will also have to outline in the coming weeks what kind of scoping exercise is planned of county homes where unmarried mothers and their babies were also accommodated.

Many of the women in county homes had more than one "illegitimate" child and were regarded as "repeat offenders". However just four of these homes are being looked at by the investigation as part of a sampling process. Women were often transferred between institutions.

Irish Independent

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