Another three years

There was a protest outside a mother and baby home in Cork today, the Irish Times reports.

Mothers who lost babies at the former Bessborough mother and baby home in Cork tied teddy bears and toys to the gates of the building today as they stated their hope to be included in any form of inquiry the Government is now going to order.

The founder of the Bessborough Mother and Baby Support Group, Helen Murphy, who was born at the home and left when she was seven months old said the vigil was part of a larger campaign.

“We want the truth to be known. We want justice to be done and we want Bessborough to be included in any form of inquiry the Government is now going to order.

We founded the Bessborough Mother and Baby Support Group as an outlet for all those whose lives were affected by this place,” she said.

“The purpose of it is to remember the people who were there and especially the babies who died.

“But also to remember all of the mothers who gave birth there. We want to add our voice to the call for an inquiry into what went on at the mother and baby homes, how many babies died and where are those babies buried. We want answers.”

This isn’t the home in Tuam in Galway, notice; this is a different one. There are lots of them.

Women who gave birth at Bessborough were not allowed pain relief during labour or stitches after birth, and when they developed abscesses from breast-feeding they were denied penicillin.

One nun who ran the labour ward in the early 1950’s also forbid any “moaning or screaming” during childbirth. Girls in poverty, who could not afford to make donations to the Sacred Heart order, had to spend another three years after their babies were born cleaning and working on the lands around the home to ‘make amends’ for their pregnancy.

No pain relief. No stitches. No penicillin. No vocalization during childbirth. THREE YEARS of forced labor.

God damn the Catholic church.


  1. BinJabreel says

    I can’t come up with a coherent reply to this, so I’m going to resort to sputtering in apoplectic rage.

  2. Al Dente says

    No pain relief. No stitches. No penicillin. No vocalization during childbirth. THREE YEARS of forced labor.

    Another case of the RCC punishing women for having had sex. That’s not surprising considering it was professional virgins running those homes.

  3. Sara says

    My automatic thought was that Mother Teresa, as described in Hitchens’ work, would have felt quite at home denying women penicillin for their injuries because their suffering would bring them closer to Christ. Becoming aware of the dark underbelly of the Church where I grew up just leaves me more shocked and at a loss to understand its lack of compassion, especially for women.

  4. Erp says

    On penicillin, how commonly available was it in Ireland at the time in question? The early mass production was for the Allied militaries (WW II but Ireland was neutral during WWII). Availabiltiy for general cilvilians any where was only in the late 1940s at the earliest but in Ireland in particular? Or in other words were women in regular Irish hospitals also denied penicillin at the same time?

    The youngest death was recorded at 2 days. How many still births or live births that died shortly after were there (i.e., no birth certificate was filed so no death certificate needed)?

    Ireland rationed food during and for a time after WWII (until 1951) and presumably the children in these homes were entitled to rations. Did they receive them? Were the rations allocated sufficient? Not all food was rationed but non rationed food may have gotten more expensive or difficult to get (I know in the UK many families eked out food by growing their own or foraging). Did the nuns share their food equitably with the mothers and children. If the nuns were short of food as well as the children that is a different matter than if the nuns were well fed and the children short of food. In the former case the children would probably still suffer more than the nuns simply because knowledge of the nutritional differences of children and adults wasn’t there.

  5. geoffarnold says

    You know what’s missing from this story? The voices of the nuns (and maybe of the priests who ran the parishes where these homes were located). Have any of you seen any reports of interviews with any of them? I’m sure that they wouldn’t refuse to comment, nor would they lie, because they were doing God’s work, and lying is a sin. Right?

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