'It is time we found out if harrowing rumours are true'
Published 07/06/2014 | 02:30
A MAN born in one of the most notorious mother-and-baby homes has called for a major audit of its cemetery to establish whether it too hides a mass grave.
John Barrett said: "I have been saying for years that we need answers about what exactly happened at places like Bessborough.
"There were always rumours about burials and the (Bessborough) graveyard. There could well be thousands of babies buried there. This was the largest mothers-and-baby home in Ireland so who knows?
"I think we now need to find out whether these were just rumours, or whether just like Tuam in Galway, there was some- thing tragic going on."
His plea came as numerous former residents of Bessborough, a facility run in Cork by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, spoke of the secrecy surrounding both burials and the graveyard at the Blackrock complex.
Bessborough was the largest of the mother-and-baby homes operated in Ireland – the others being at Tuam and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary.
The Blackrock facility became so notorious for its cruelty that it was referred to as "a secret penitential jail".
Bessborough was also the centre of controversial drug trials where children were unknowingly volunteered for vaccine tests.
The corpses of children who died there were also occasionally supplied for medical study.
Parts of the Bessborough graveyard are still effectively off-limits.
Mr Barrett was born at Bessborough on July 17, 1952 – and then ended up in a church-run school in the 1960s where he was sexually abused by the notorious paedophile Brother Ambrose.
He warned that Ireland now owes it to a generation of women and children who suffered unspeakable cruelty at Bessborough, Tuam and Roscrea to let the truth come to light.
"I consider everyone who went through the doors of these terrible places to be my brothers and sisters. We owe it to them and to each other to find the truth. But for the grace of God, there go I."
Bessborough became a byword for cruelty and humiliation. It largely catered for unmarried mothers and they gave birth in a regime of unspeakable hardship.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary said they would welcome an independent inquiry into the various issues raised over recent weeks.