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Campaigners want graves of all mother and baby home victims to be found and memorialised



Catherine Coffey O’Brien

Catherine Coffey O’Brien

Catherine Coffey O’Brien

Mother and baby home campaigners have demanded a commitment to find and properly mark the graves of hundreds of infants who died in the notorious facilities over a span of more than 60 years.

The call came as President Michael D Higgins insisted that meeting the needs and concerns of survivors must now be at the heart of the State's response to the traumatic legacy of mother and baby homes.

"As President of Ireland, I welcome the publication of the commission's report and the apologies offered," he said.

"My thoughts must be, as they have been so often before, of the mothers and of the infants who died; of those children who survived and who continue to carry the trauma of their early lives, and beyond that the burden of being deprived of information about their birth parents.

"Of all of those women, alive and dead, who have borne the scars of their experiences, the shame and secrecy imposed upon them, and the life-long burden for so many arising from trauma, bereavement or separation from their children.

"The report took five years to complete and there is now a responsibility to move, without delay, to the next phase of this process and to respond adequately and generously to the needs and rightful concerns of the survivors and other victims."

Campaigners have insisted that the State must support its words of apology with firm action to right the wrongs involved, including finding all unmarked baby graves.

Mothers want urgent action on the excavation of the Tuam site in Co Galway, as well as a commitment to examine the site of the Bessborough estate in Cork, where it is feared hundreds of infant graves still remain unidentified.

Bessborough in Blackrock, Co Cork - at one time Ireland's largest mother and baby home - was infamous for a high infant mortality rate.

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, fewer than 70 have known individual burial sites.

Campaigners want all proposed development at the Bessborough estate paused until a full investigation of possible burial sites is conducted and a proper memorial erected.

Mothers have insisted that, if necessary, ground- mapping radar should be used to identify possible mass burial sites.

A recently discovered historic estate map indicated a previously unknown burial area.

Catherine Coffey O'Brien, whose mother Christina died last week, said a proper investigation of the site is now warranted.


"We want an independent body to come in and carefully assess the site," she said.

"We then want the ground handed over to Cork City Council, to protect the site and to preserve it as a graveyard."

Ms Coffey O'Brien said survivors do not want exhumations.

Campaigner Ann O'Gorman said Ireland had a duty to those who suffered at Bessborough and other homes to locate and properly mark any burial plots.

Ms O'Gorman had a baby girl, Evelyn, at Bessborough but was told that she had died.

"I want to see this investigated properly. We need closure - it would make me so happy to see that investigation done," said Ms O'Gorman.

"I am in an awful state over what happened here. The whole lot of me has gone into finding my daughter."