Looking Forward

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A seriously ill woman who has spent almost 50 years searching for her child’s grave fears she will die before she ever gets to find her.

Ann O’Gorman says she was 17 when her daughter Evelyn was stripped away from her by nuns at a Mother and Baby Home in Co Cork, Ireland, where unwed pregnant women were sent in the 19th and 20th centuries.

She believes her child is one of the 800 babies suspected to have died and been buried at one such former home, which now faces bulldozing.

Earlier this week a planning application was lodged to build apartments on the grounds where the infants are believed to be buried, the Irish Mirror reports, just as a report investigating the scandal is due for release.

Ann had Evelyn in the summer of 1971 with no pain relief and passed out after a difficult birth.

When she woke she was told her baby was dead – but she says the nuns refused to show her where the newborn was buried.

Last year Ann reported Evelyn missing to Gardai, and earlier this year a friend wrote to Pope Francis on her behalf pleading for his help.

Ann told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “It is breaking my heart. We are still waiting on the final report [from the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation].

“There should be respect shown to the mothers and especially to the dead babies and girls buried in Bessborough.

“When I heard about that site planning notice I was in an awful state, I felt physically sick. To disturb all the little babies and the mothers that are in there.

“Evelyn is in there, I know she is in there and the thoughts of the bulldozers disturbing her.”

“It’s different to the septic tank in Tuam – their little bones can’t be moved or excavated.

“That ground is sacred and we have proof the babies are there. All we want is a memorial garden, a bench, the babies names recorded, that is not too much to ask.”

Campaigners have expressed outrage over plans to build 246 apartments on land at Bessborough which they believe overlaps the babies’ burial site.

It comes as a Mother and Baby Home Home Commission of Investigation (MBHCI) prepares to publish its report into alleged wrongdoings at Irish homes.

The commission previously found the remains of 796 children in a “sewage tank” at a well-known mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Earlier this week the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance called on the developers, MWB Two Ltd, to withdraw the planning application.

They want the site preserved until after the MBHCOI’s final report is published in the second week of January 2021.

Survivors’ spokesperson Catherine Coffey said: “We are in the middle of a pandemic, Christmas is coming, we now have to put another submission into planning.

“Where is the common decency? Evelyn and hundreds more are buried in the Bessborough children’s burial ground, they will be treated equally, their graves will be acknowledged.”

Part of the 3.7-acre site earmarked for the proposed Gateway View scheme includes a portion of land identified as ‘Childrens’ Burial Ground’ on a 1949/1950 OSI map.

MWB Two Ltd has said it is conscious of the “historical concerns and sensitivities” around the site.

Last year, the commission revealed 904 children died while in the care of the nuns at the Cork institution, or in hospital after being transferred from there.

But it said the burial place of more than 800 of the children remains unknown.

Despite repeated attempts it could only find graves for 64 children who died between 1922 and 1928, in various city cemeteries.