Wednesday 18 September 2019

'I want to find my baby's grave': Bessborough mother's plea

Ann O'Gorman. Photo: Press 22
Ann O'Gorman. Photo: Press 22

Ralph Riegel

A woman who has fearlessly campaigned for over 30 years to trace the grave of her infant daughter at the notorious Bessborough mother-and-baby home has expressed her disappointment at the decision not to sanction an excavation of the sprawling Cork site.

Ann O'Gorman, from Limerick, gave birth to her baby daughter Evelyn in the Cork facility in 1971 when she was just 17.

Evelyn, whom Ann was informed died at birth, would be 48 years old on July 24.

Ann, pictured, was never told where her baby was buried - and has no marked plot to visit. She never saw her baby's body and, for a time, wondered whether the little girl survived and was offered for secret adoption.

The Mother and Baby Home Commission (MBHC), in its interim report last week, said it was not considered feasible to now excavate the 60 remaining acres of the Bessborough estate that, back in the 1940s, extended to more than 200 acres.

Of the more than 900 babies who died at Bessborough, or in Cork hospitals, having been transferred from the mother-and-baby home over seven decades, less than 70 have known burial sites. More than 800 graves are unknown or unmarked.

The decision not to sanction Tuam-style excavations at the Cork site was met with outrage by Bessborough mothers and campaigners. A vigil took place at the Bessborough site last Friday as a gesture of solidarity with families trying to trace their babies' graves.

It also came after an old map was discovered last month which indicated a previously unknown burial ground on the site - a reason, according to campaigners, for excavations to be sanctioned.

"It's an insult to us all," Ann said. "I am so very disappointed - after we gave them our stories and told them about our heartbreak, it is like they (MBHC) are there for the Government. It is like they have gone against us.

"We thought they were there for us - to help us. To get us justice."

Ann said her message now is simple - that justice must be done for the children who died at Bessborough and other notorious mother-and-baby homes. "Please help us - it is not right what is happening," she said. "I want to see excavations at Bessborough - I want to find my baby's grave. She was my flesh and blood. I want to be able to pray at her grave.

"It is what all the babies and the mothers at Bessborough deserve. They were forgotten for so long. They deserve to be treated with the respect they were never shown there.

"It would be brilliant (if graves were found). If I got my own baby back - I have a plot for her. With her name on the headstone. Just to have her there - before I leave this world. She is part of me - she is my flesh and blood. I was only a child when I had her. There was nothing there for us. We had nowhere to go."

Ann vowed that, despite the MBHC recommendation, campaigners will maintain pressure on Children's Minister Katherine Zappone for a rethink on sanctioning excavations.

Sunday Independent

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