Statement - 26th February 2022

Accompanying Statement from the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, 26th February 2022

After the publication of the Commission Report on Mother and Baby Homes in January 2021, we responded as follows on the issue of burials, - “The burial of infants and children who died while in care has understandably become a matter of immense controversy.  We are distressed and saddened that it is so difficult to prove with legal certainty where many of these infants were buried especially with regard to Bessborough.  We did everything possible including the engagement of a professional historian to assist us in our dealings with the Commission on this vitally important matter”

As the Commission Report concluded that it was likely that babies were buried at Bessborough, but did not provide any related documentation or information, we decided to explore this matter further. We were keen to bring further clarity to this most important issue, for ourselves and more especially for the families involved and simply to try and establish the facts, if at all possible.

Last year (June 2021) we engaged recognised experts in the field, ‘Eachtra Heritage’ to conduct an archaeological assessment of the potential burial grounds at Bessborough. This was to provide an independent archaeological perspective on ongoing historical research into Mother & Baby Home related burial practices in Bessborough. We also engaged Dr Aoife Breathnach to complete a report on ‘The Burial History of Bessborough Mother and Baby Home’.

We decided to engage these archaeological experts to examine property owned by us, in the vicinity of the avenue, folly and graveyard.  The project included drone surveys, 3D scanning, topographic and laser surveys all of which are now published with the accompanying two-part report.

We have been observing ongoing debates and understandable expressions of concern over the past year on the burials issue, and we simply wished to add some clarity, with this specific expert input.  The responsibility for burials of those children who died at Bessborough (or at local hospitals, having been transferred there from Bessborough) rested both with the Congregation and other agencies of the State.  This issue was explored in the Commission Report.  No definitive conclusions were however reached due to the lack of documentation and/or information.

We have giving this two-part report to local survivor groups later today, and it was also forwarded to Cork City Council and Minister Gorman later today.

We are publishing the independent ‘Eachtra Heritage’ assessment and an accompanying report by historian Dr Aoife Breathnach in full on our SHJM website today, 26th February 2022