Thursday 23 October 2014

Mementos at Bessborough honour those who suffered

Published 10/06/2014 | 02:30

Teddy bears and toys which had been fixed on the railings at Bessborough, Cork have been moved to the 'Little Angels' plot in the graveyard at Bessborough. Photo credit: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Teddy bears being placed on the railings outside the Bessborough Centre at Mahon, Blackrock, Cork
Plaque at the 'Little Angels' plot in the graveyard at Bessborough. Photo credit: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

MOTHER and baby home campaigners welcomed a decision to allow them daily access to the 'Little Angels' plot at the home which was the scene of a large vigil at the weekend.

The decision came after some upset was caused to the Bessborough Mother and Baby Support Group by the removal of teddies and toys from the front gate of the former facility following Sunday's vigil.

Former residents of the Bessborough home in Cork initially expressed dismay at the discovery that teddies, toys and flowers left at the main gate on Sunday had been removed by yesterday morning.

It emerged that staff at the complex had removed the mementos and left them in place of honour by the 'Little Angels' plot.

"There was confusion and upset initially because we didn't know what had happened to the mementos," Helen Murphy said.

"But we are quite happy that the Little Angels plot is a suitable and proper place for the teddies and mementoes."

Campaign members will now be allowed unrestricted access to the 'Little Angels' plot at Bessborough from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

They said they'd found it difficult to gain access to the plot over recent years because it was located on private ground.

"At times it was virtually impossible to gain access to the plot even to lay a wreath and say a prayer," Ms Murphy said.

The plot is in the main Bessborough cemetery which, like the Tuam mother and baby home in Galway, is now the focus of public demands to clarify how many infants were buried there between the 1920s and 60s.

One campaigner, John Barrett (61), who was born in Bessborough, said he feared that anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 babies could be buried at the Blackrock facility, most in unmarked graves.

The infant mortality rate at Bessborough in the 1940s was close to 55pc with 100 babies out of 180 dying in the space of just 12 months.

Helen Murphy was also born at Bessborough. "We founded the Bessborough Mother and Baby Support Group as an outlet for all those whose lives were affected by this place," she said. "The purpose of it is to remember the people who were there and especially the babies who died."

"But also to remember all of the mothers who gave birth there. We want to add our voice to the call for an inquiry into what went on at the mother and baby homes, how many babies died and where are those babies buried. We want answers.

"Getting access to the 'Little Angels' plot on a weekly basis is a major first step. But it is only a first step and there is a long road ahead of us until the full truth is told."

Campaigner Tom Cronin said it was "absolutely outrageous" that Ireland's mother and baby home issue was only now being pursued despite controversial vaccine trials, secret US adoptions and the cruel treatment of young mothers having been known about for 30 years.

Bessborough House now houses a number of different healthcare and social support services including a mental health care centre for adults. The Sacred Heart Sisters still own the property but do not run the services.

Irish Independent

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