Wednesday 19 June 2019

Letterfrack: unmarked grave of boy, 4, discovered


SURVIVORS of the Letterfrack Industrial School in Connemara yesterday uncovered the unmarked grave of a four-year-old boy who died while in the custody of the Christian Brothers and was buried in woods near the school.

The discovery came about when a 74-year-old man turned up for a ceremony to mark the graves of the estimated 99 boys who died at the school between the 1870s until it closed in the Seventies.

The man brought organisers to a site in the woods near the school where they found the grave of Bernard Kerrigan, who died in 1935. The elderly man, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the organisers of the event he had played with the boy in the schoolyard and wanted to visit his grave before he died.

The organisers of the event yesterday placed 77 marble hearts in the graveyard beside the school.

While organising the event, the group known as the Joseph Pike Research Group, discovered from Christian Brothers' records that at least 99 boys died in Letterfrack.

The Christian Brothers said on Friday that incomplete records had been kept at Letterfrack and that they had kept full records in their Dublin Provincialate. They wished that all records about deaths at the school be made available to families and ex-inmates.

Christina Holt of the Joseph Pike group named after a boy who died in the Tralee Industrial School yesterday called for a public inquiry into Letterfrack and the other industrial schools. The Research Group has sent a letter to Bertie Ahern asking for an inquiry into deaths in 74 industrial schools.

"The Christian Brothers gave us 97 names but we have a further two names. What we are finding is horrific. In some cases we have found that there were no death certificates. They are not registered in the Register of Deaths in Galway.

"That is why we are calling for a public inquiry. On death certificates we have seen the boys have also been robbed of their parentage. They are down as 'son of a tinker', 'son of a labourer', 'son of a butcher'. This morning we found Bernard Kerrigan's grave. This man who played with him in the schoolyard confirmed that he died and we found his grave."

The grave is less than 10 yards from the school building. John Prior said they had heard that a boy had been buried in the woods beside the school but had no idea where it was. It was totally unmarked.

"This man came here this morning and brought us to the grave. He said he had been playing with Bernard Kerrigan the day before and the next day was at his burial."

The Letterfrack survivors attended a Mass yesterday prior to the placing of the marble hearts in the graveyard.

Meanwhile, members of the Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) the group have said they will boycott another ceremony planned for the Letterfrack Industrial School next Saturday.

Patrick Walsh of SOCA said the event planned for next Saturday was offensive to Letterfrack victims as it involved the local community. He said boys remember trying to escape from the school and being brought back by local people and gardai.

He said the event, organized by the local community group, Connemara West, is "viewed with great suspicion by the survivors of Frack because of all the official and religious involvement, not to mention the spectre of having to rub shoulders with members of the 'local community'."

SOCA's members are currently pursuing the Catholic Church for compensation for victims in lawsuits that could lead to over ?100 million in payments and legal costs.

The cases are expected to take years to hear and may involve a prolonged legal battle against the charitable trusts under which church property is held.

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