Cork mother and baby home survivor: "We want to do right by the women who didn't make it out those gates"

Cork mother and baby home survivor: "We want to do right by the women who didn't make it out those gates"

Catherine Coffey at the back of Bessborough.

A FORMER resident of the Bessborough mother-and-baby home has joined forces with other survivors to highlight what she describes as a "breach of human rights" in relation to the Retention of Records Bill.

Catherine Coffey spent ten years at an industrial school before becoming pregnant. She was subsequently transferred to Bessborough but escaped and now wants to offer a voice to other survivors.

In a letter to the Minister for Children, Ms Coffey and other survivors listed their concerns in relation to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

"We have clear objectives," part of the letter read. "Mark the graves. Exhume Tuam, acknowledge that Travellers, generations of them, were erased from this world. We are a community of mothers, industrial school survivors and adoptees from every class. We have been patient, mindful and respectful but the time has come to stop drowning out the voices of mothers."

Speaking to The Echo, Ms Coffey said she feared that survivors will not live long enough to get the justice they deserve.

She referred to the Retention of Records Bill 2019 which puts a seal on records transferred to the National Archives of Ireland by the Ryan Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee until at least 2094.

Catherine Coffey at the entrance at Bessborough
Catherine Coffey at the entrance at Bessborough

"We as survivors have a shorter lifespan and that's due to the neglect and abuse we got growing up," she told The Echo. "Many of us will die of heart conditions and illnesses with a direct correlation to our upbringing. This is the land of unmarked graves. Once the Irish state recognises that and the church acknowledges it we can move on with what's left of our lives."

She urged the Minister for Children, Roderic O'Gorman to meet with survivors.

One of Ms Coffey's main hopes is to give a voice to the silent.

"I was one of the lucky ones because I ran. I got to keep my son. There were other girls who didn't run, I still see their faces in my head and wonder where they and their babies are now. If this was a retreat or a maternity hospital I wouldn't have ran. We lived this. We know what happened and carry the memories in our mind's eye. The least the state and church can do is listen and learn from this. We want to do right by the women who didn't make it out those gates."

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