Children as young as 12, pregnant as a result of rape, were in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home into the 1980s.
Details from maternity registers, released under freedom of information, reveal between 1954 and 1987, young girls were pregnant in the institution.
The youngest child in the registers dates from 1968. The girl is listed as being just 12 and had been transferred from Bessborough to St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork, where her child had been stillborn in January 1968, as a result of “ante-partum haemorrhage”.
However, the presence of children in Bessborough pregnant as a result of rape continued into the 1980s. For example, Maternity Record Book 40 lists a girl of 14 whose child was stillborn in 1982. The record simply states the child “premature 33wks, gasped and died”.
In another case from 1963, a 13-year-old “private patient” gave birth to a stillborn boy; cause of death was listed as: “baby very poor at birth, cerebral haemorrhage”.
The children listed in the maternity register details released by Tusla include:
- 1958 — Birth mother of 16.5 years old.
- 1958 — Birth mother of 17.5 years old.
- 1962 — Birth mother of 17 years old.
- 1963 — Birth mother of 13 years old.
- 1964 — Birth mother of 16.5 years old.
- 1968 — Birth mother of 12 years old.
- 1968 — Birth mother of 17 years old.
- 1970 — Birth mother of 15 years old.
- 1974 — Birth mother of 15 years old.
- 1982 — Birth mother of 14 years old.
However, Tusla noted that the material released was “not an exhaustive list of all infant deaths or stillborn babies either born/delivered within or referred from Bessborough to St Finbarr’s Hospital”.
The co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance, Susan Lohan, said the question of whether the rapes were reported and investigated needed to be answered.
“These poor girls were clearly the victims of a vile criminal act. They were raped. The gardaí need to investigate whether or not the Order reported the rape of these children and if not, why not,” she said.
Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes (CMABS) said child victims of rape were treated as though they brought it on themselves while their abusers escaped any punishment. “CMABS strongly encourage victims to seek counseling and then contact their solicitors before lodging formal complaints with the Garda while there is still time,” he said.
The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary on the subject of children in its care that were pregnant as a result of rape. These included whether the cases were reported by the order to the Garda and/or relevant authorities at the time.
It declined to answer any of the queries, stating it would only communicate directly with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes on all such and related matters — and it would “not be appropriate to enter into communication, other than with the commission at this time”.