Mayor of County Cork apologises over Bessborough Mother and Baby Home

Linehan Foley says ‘sorry to the mothers and babies who suffered and continue to suffer’

A file image of the  former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork. Photograph:  Provision

A file image of the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork. Photograph: Provision

 

The Mayor of Cork County, a survivor of the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork, has apologised on behalf of Cork County Council for failing to ensure that women who had their babies there were properly cared for.

Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, who was born in Bessborough in Cork city in 1966 and later adopted by a family in Youghal, on Friday issued the apology on behalf of Cork County Council as Bessborough was within the county’s jurisdiction for many of its years of operation, from 1922 to 1998.

“As many will be aware, I am the child of a mother and baby home. I was born in Bessborough. This is a fact I never shied away from. I have come to know my birth mother and consider myself to be very fortunate. But I know there are many who have not been so fortunate.

“As Mayor of County Cork, I would like to say I am deeply sorry, sorry to all the mothers and babies who suffered and continue to suffer, sorry to the mothers and babies who endured such appalling mistreatment, sorry to the mothers and babies who were abandoned by society and State.”

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes last month reported that some 9,768 women and 8,938 children passed through the doors of Bessborough in its near 80 years of existence when it was run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Of those 8,938 children, some 923 died as infants, with the issue of infant mortality being so high that by 1934, it had the highest recorded infant mortality rate among the four Mother and Baby homes in the country.

The situation continued to deteriorate in the 1940s with the infant mortality rate at Bessborough, peaking in 1943 when 75 per cent of children born in the home died within the first year of life - a situation highlighted at the time.

Cllr Linehan Foley said she was she offering the apology as County Mayor of Cork and on behalf of Cork County Council to everyone who ended up in Bessborough and “were failed by a multitude of institutions, including this local authority.”

“Bessborough Mother and Baby home was, at the time of operation, within the jurisdiction of Cork County Council. As a Council, our ultimate priority is the welfare of our residents. Welfare was not afforded to the residents of this mother and baby home.

“The care, compassion and concern which should have been a guiding light was missing. Welfare was replaced by neglect. Worst of all, the most vulnerable members of our society were utterly ignored and shunned,” she said.

Cllr Linehan Foley said Bessborough now lies within the Cork City Council boundary and she welcomed the decision by Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh to set up a working group on the council to look at implementing some Government recommendations regarding Bessborough.

“It’s almost a contradiction for me to issue an apology on behalf of an organisation that I was myself was a survivor of and am now a member of but I want all survivors to know that I mean this truly and sincerely.

“I know that while these actions took place in the not too distant past, as a society we have transformed entirely but we must never forget the part we played in this painful past, never forget what happened and ensure it never happens again.”