Sinn Fein spokesperson on Children and Equality, Kathleen Funchion TD, has responded to news that an Office of the Director of Authorised Interventions will not be established at the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home site in Cork.
Teachta Funchion said:
“In response to a parliamentary question, it has emerged the Office of Authorised Interventions, established under the Institutional Burials Act 2022, will not be engaged to investigate the potential 900 plus inappropriately buried infants and children known to have died at the former Mother and Baby Home in Bessborough.
“The Minister suggested in his response that there is a significant lack of evidence to support a comprehensive excavation, recovery and identification of inappropriately buried remains.
“This ends any hope survivors had that the site would be included within the remit of this new office’s work and that the hundreds of unmarked infant graves at Bessborough would be investigated and potentially located.
“The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary oversaw Bessborough, and they failed to keep a register of infant burials from 1922 up to its eventual closure in 1998.
“There remains widespread knowledge of inappropriate burials at the former site.
“This was backed up by the problematic Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation Report, which pointed to a significant number of infants and children dying during its time in operation. They found evidence to support the deaths of 923 infants and children, yet were only able to establish the burial place of 64 children.
“The scale and silent impact of what happened to children and their mothers in Bessborough deserves the same level of attention and extensive investigative work by the state as any other former mother and baby home site.
“It is disappointing the Bessborough site seems to be too hard to deal with and suggests that, without the dogged determination of Catherine Corless, the former mother and baby home site in Tuam in Galway could have suffered a similar fate.
“Such is the concern locally and amongst survivor groups, several attempts to develop the site have stalled due to concerns there is a children’s burial ground located there.
“I acknowledge there are differing views on whether the site should be excavated or not, all are adamant though the Minister’s independent new office must be tasked with exploring the location of unmarked infant and children’s graves on the 60-acre site.
“I implore the Minister to ensure the office is given the independence and liberty to pursue intensive investigation of this site; the Institutional Burials Act 2022 leaves room for a deeper exploration of other potential burial grounds.
“Ensuring that infants who perished in these harsh and merciless environments are shown the respect and dignity that was so sorely missing during their young lives must be a priority for this Government.”