Saturday 17 February 2018

'Baby Maria needs her mother'

Gardai stress newborn's mum has 'nothing to fear' by coming forward, says Claire Mc Cormack as she visits where the baby was left

‘Not a criminal investigation’: Gardai at the gateway on Steelstown Road near Rathcoole in Co Dublin where baby ‘Maria’ was discovered last Friday
‘Not a criminal investigation’: Gardai at the gateway on Steelstown Road near Rathcoole in Co Dublin where baby ‘Maria’ was discovered last Friday

Claire McCormack

Last week, I visited the exact spot where baby Maria was found. I stood there, alone, and tried to imagine what could have been going through a person's mind to decide to leave a newborn baby, swaddled in a fleece blanket wrapped in a bin liner inside a careworn Marks & Spencer carrier bag, on the side of a road.

Words that rumbled from the pit of my stomach included panic, fear, worry and distress. Knowing Maria is recovering well in hospital, my main concern, just like the authorities, is where is her mother? And is she OK?

The spot where Maria lay is almost like a dumping ground. The precious package containing the baby girl probably didn't seem much different than the burst refuse sack full of old rags and discarded runners dumped just inches away on the side of a country lane. It was a miracle she was discovered.

Cigarette and crisp packets, empty cans and coffee cups lie strewn around the entrance to the field where the newborn was found by a couple who pulled into the gateway last Friday at around 3.30pm.

In an amazing touch of good fortune, the driver spotted movement in the bag when he got out of the car. It was just 6°C at the time and 13mm of rain fell during the day. Maria is thought to have been born just 24-36 hours prior to her discovery. But, so far, the person who left the child along the side of the road on Windmill Lane is yet to come forward.

From this isolated spot on the Dublin-Kildare border, a driver has two main options. Turning right leads to Steelstown Lane - a narrow but well-kept back road dotted with expensive equestrian properties, luxurious gated entrances and acres of large fields. Locals described the area as generally quiet and private, with heavier flows of traffic at peak work times and during school runs. Turning left brings you out on to the N7 dual carriageway, which is about 200 metres away. Across the road is a farmyard and slatted sheds, but there are no houses or animals grazing along this vacant stretch. The noise of passing trucks and cars on the busy dual carriageway is the only real sign of life.

One local man who lived nearby told the Sunday Independent that "people were always dumping rubbish in the area". On our way to the scene, along Steelstown Lane, we met just two vehicles. Both pulled in to let us pass by and the drivers clearly recognised we were not from the area. Metres away, exactly a week after the naked baby was found, gardai were canvassing the public in an effort "to jog people's memory".

A garda at the scene said: "We're basically just stopping cars driving through and asking if they saw anything unusual last Friday or if they have any information or any concern. We're not getting a lot of information."

So far there have been no significant witnesses. From 2pm to 3pm on Friday afternoon, around 15 cars passed through the garda stop point.

Gardai renewed their appeal to Maria's mother, saying she would be treated with the "utmost compassion and sensitivity".

Superintendent Brendan Connolly said the mother "has absolutely nothing to fear by coming forward" and that they are concerned "first and last" with her welfare.

"We just want to ensure the mum is OK, that she receives the help she requires," he said, stressing "this is not a criminal investigation".

Anyone with information is urged to contact Clondalkin Garda Station, tel: (01) 666-7600, or the Tusla Child and Family Agency, tel: (01) 620-6387

Sunday Independent

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