24 July 2017
By Elaine Murphy
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called for plans to sell Bessborough House to be frozen at least until a forensic dig of the grounds has been completed.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after it was revealed that the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary confirmed that they intended to sell the site of the controversial former mother and baby home.
“A total of 470 infants, that we know of, died in Bessborough House between 1934 and 1953,” she said.
“It is a ghoulish and uncomfortable thought but it is plain to see that the small plot set aside for those infants in the cemetery on the site is simply not big enough to hold that many bodies; so where are they?
“While the Order has confirmed that the cemetery will not form part of any sale the fact is those remains must be somewhere and any proposed sale of any part of the site must be halted until a thorough forensic examination has been carried out.
“There are mothers alive today who still do not know where their children are buried and the very least the church and the state can do is pause the process until they can confirm any sale will not impede the investigation into finding those remains.
“My colleague, Donnchadh O’Laoghaire, has worked very closely with survivors of Bessborough House such as Joan McDermott, a courageous campaigner whose tireless efforts to secure justice for those who did and did not make it out of the Mother and Baby Homes continues to inspire.
“He has backed Joan’s calls for the sale to be stopped, requesting that Children and Youth Minister Katherine Zappone intervene and halt the sale process until an examination can be done.
“Having spoken with several women who were incarcerated in the so-called Mother and Baby Home at Bessborough House, I think it is also important that we address the incredible personal hurt the announcement of this sale has caused.
“For many of them Bessborough was the location of the most traumatic period of their lives and for the Sisters to now seek to benefit from the sale of the site, especially while an investigation is still ongoing, is in the most extreme poor taste.
“The fact that the site is also valued in the millions while some religious orders still refuse to pay their share of the redress scheme for survivors of institutional abuse would also be particularly insulting.
“Both the church and state have a duty to find out what happened at Bessborough but they also have a moral duty to ensure they do not add further hurt to people who endured the most horrific abuses in those institutions.”