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Woman sues over 'breach of rights' at home for mothers

Woman (50s) who became pregnant at 15 claims in High Court action she was forced to work at Cork's Bessborough House and subjected to 'harsh and unsafe' conditions


Bessborough House in Cork

Bessborough House in Cork

Bessborough House in Cork

A former resident of a Cork mother and baby home has initiated a High Court damages action against the State, the HSE and the order of Catholic nuns that ran the facility.

The action has been brought by Caroline Donovan, who was twice a resident of Bessborough House in Cork - once in the mid-1980s and also for a time in the early 1990s.

She says that while there she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse, which it is claimed amounted to a breach of her constitutional rights.

The action is understood to be one of the first brought following the publication earlier this month of the final report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Represented by solicitor Siobhan O'Neill and barristers Frank Callanan and Conor Duff, Ms Donovan, who is in her 50s and from Tralee, Co Kerry, intends to bring various parties before the courts in a High Court personal injuries claim.

The proceedings are expected to be formally lodged in the coming days.

The parties being sued include the minister for health, the HSE and Ireland and the Attorney General and the Congregation of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which ran the mother and baby home for unmarried mothers.


Ms Donovan says when she was a resident at Bessborough House she was forced to work at the facility and was also forced by the nuns to work for a family in Cork city without any pay.

She says she was subjected to harsh and unsafe working practices.

Ms Donovan also says a baby girl she gave birth to in the early 1980s was wrongfully adopted without her consent and after undue influence was exerted on her.

She says she became pregnant when she was 15 and gave birth to her daughter in a Cork hospital.

She says her child was taken to Bessborough House and was, she claims, eventually unlawfully adopted without her permission.

The case is expected to eventually come before the courts.