Spirit of Mother Jones Award Presented to the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance.

Congratulations to the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) on being the recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021.

CSSA members, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, and Maureen Considine, accompanied by Sheila O’Byrne, and Phil Kinsella received the award from James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee during the recent festival. The award itself is based on the story of the Children of Lir in Irish folklore.

From Left: Sheila O’Byrne, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Phil Kinsella, and Maureen Considine.

Catherine expressed her delight for the recognition and community support which this award represents and stated that the CSSA felt honoured to have been nominated to receive it as it meant so much to the group. 

The official citation from the Cork Mother Jones Committee is as follows. 

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 is presented to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance for:

·         Their bravery and determination to ensure that development does not take place on sensitive burial areas of the former Mother & Baby ‘Home’ at Bessborough in Cork.

·         Their efforts to organise a voice for the mothers of deceased children, and to publicly question where the remains of hundreds of babies are buried, and why the records of burials have not been produced to date.

·         Their work in locating the OSI 1950 Map which has a marked location of a Childrens’ Burial Ground in Bessborough clearly displayed.

·         Their resilience in defending and verifying the accuracy of this map at the oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala during April 2021 and for convincing the planning Board to reject the proposed development.

·         Their continuing campaign to seek the right with the common tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for access to the grounds and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough.

The members of the CSSA are the second Cork-based recipients of this International Award which is named in honour of Cork born Mary Harris known around the world as Mother Jones.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that the CSSA has accepted the 2021 award which indeed is an acknowledgement of our admiration for their determination to honour the dead, and continue to fight for the living.  

Day 4 of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Online Festival.

Tonight at 8.30 pm, there is a special Cork Singers’ Club Mother Jones Night.  For a zoom connection email John Murphy at dublinhill6@gmail.com as soon as possible or join in through the Cork Singers Club Facebook Page. 

The online festival schedule on Cork Community Television (which can be located on any search engine using http://www.corkcommunitytv.ie) is as follows: 

·        2:00 pm. The Mine Wars produced and directed by Randall MacLowry

·        4:00 pm. Mother Jones and Her Children by Frameworks Films.

·        7:00 pm. Dr. Sean Pettit…….An Extraordinary Teacher with an introduction by Richard T Cooke.

This film features Sean’s final presentation “The Cork City of Mary Harris” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on 29th July 2016.

·        8:00 pm. The Songs of Mother Jones. Featuring Māire Ní Chēilleachair, Karan Casey, William Hammond, Mags Creedon, Richard T Cooke, John Murphy, John & Gearoid Nyhan and Mick Treacy,

The singers of the tribute songs to Mother Jones at the Butter Market Garden in Shandon.

Day 3 of the Spirit of Mother Jones 0nline Festival 2021.

Saturday 27 November 2021                                                                                      

·         2:00 pm. Blood on the Mountain produced by Mari-Lynn Evans.

·         4:00 pm. Palikari:  Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre by Lamprini C Tomas and Nickos Ventouras.

·         6:00 pm. Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Rosemary Feurer.

·         6:30 pm. Interview (zoom) with Mari Steed, Adoption Rights campaigner.

·         7:00 pm. Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, CSSA discuss their effort to safeguard the Bessborough Burial ground.

All events are available on Cork Community Television at http://www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

Day 2 concluded with an interview of Donal O’Drisceoil by Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Committee and Alan, William and John bring matters for the day to a conclusion with a selection of tunes and songs at the Maldron Hotel.

Day 2 of the Online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021.

Why not forget Black Friday and click on www.corkcommunitytv.ie

Friday 25th November.

2:00 pm. The highlights of the past ten years of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals.

7:00 pm. Tadhg Barry Remembered. A documentary by Cork Council of Trade Unions and Frameworks Films.

Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil interview.

8:00 pm. Interview with Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil, author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution. 

The official launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 took place at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon last night. The Lord Mayor of Cork represented by Cllr. John Sheehan declared the festival open and stated that he was delighted that the festival had proceeded this year as each event set out to challenge one’s views of history and social issues. Speaker, Anne Twomey attended and participated in a brief Q&A session afterwards in relation to questions about Muriel MacSwiney. 

Welcome to 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival (online).

Begins today. 

Click on www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media channel 803.

Thursday 25th November 2021.

2:00 pm. The highlights of the 2020 online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Muriel MacSwiney.


7.30 pm. Muriel MacSwiney………..The Unlikely Revolutionary.         An interview with Anne Twomey, historian and teacher, of the Shandon Area History Group.

Anne Twomey. Shandon Area History Group.

Solidarity to all our American friends of Mother Jones on Thanksgiving Day.

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) to receive the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to members of the campaigning group The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).

Members Maureen Considine, Ann O’Gorman and Catherine Coffey O’Brien have agreed to accept the award on behalf of the members of the Alliance. 

Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien of the CSSA in discussion.

Jim Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee declared;

“We are pleased to announce that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 has been awarded to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance who have campaigned for the proper memorialisation of the women and children who lie buried in the grounds of the former Mother and Babies Home at Bessborough in Cork City.

Specifically the CSSA by their determination and bravery prevented the recent plans to construct apartments on sensitive areas of the Bessborough grounds and through their efforts they discovered an Ordnance Survey Map from 1950 which clearly shows the marked Children’s Burial Ground.

In addition to their actions the members of the Alliance, their experts and their legal team won an oral planning hearing of An Bord Pleanala and convinced the planning inspector of the merits of their argument to protect the Children’s Burial Ground. 

Finally by their ongoing efforts and continuing campaign to seek the human right in accordance with common Irish tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for the right of access to those grounds and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough, they have displayed the courage of their convictions and are worthy of the Spirit of Mother Jones award for 2021.

We are indeed honoured to present the Spirit of Mother Jones award for 2021 to the representatives of the Alliance, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman and Maureen Considine.”  

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (the CSSA) represents a group of survivors of Bessborough Mother and Baby ‘Home’.  The CSSA’s membership is largely composed of mother-survivors, whose babies’ died in the institution, and includes family members. Children and mothers who died in Bessborough are buried onsite and in various public burial places such as St. Joseph’s cemetery (Ballyphehane) and All Saints cemetery (Carr’s Hill), with just a handful of the total burials marked.

Following proposals for development on the grounds of Bessborough towards the end of 2020, the CSSA opposed the plans citing the newly discovered evidence for the location of a large Childrens’ Burial Ground on the Bessborough estate. The Commission of Investigation into the Mothers and Baby ‘Homes’ stated that it is “highly likely” that burials took place in the grounds.

Using the 1950 Ordnance Survey original map drawing, which clearly shows “Childrens’ Burial Ground” marked on the grounds of the former Bessborough lands, the CSSA’s legal team convinced An Bord Pleanala to refuse permission for the development on the grounds that it would be “premature to grant permission for the proposed development prior to establishing whether there is a children’s burial ground located within the site and the extent of any such burial ground.” This has now created some space to ensure the proper memorialisation of the women and children who are “highly likely” to lie buried in the grounds.

OSI 1950 Bessborough

The full citation reads as follows.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 is presented to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance for:

Their bravery and determination to ensure that development does not take place on sensitive burial areas of the former Mother & Baby ‘Home’ at Bessborough in Cork. 

Their efforts to organise a voice for the mothers of deceased children, and to publicly question where the remains of hundreds of babies are buried, and why the records of burials have not been produced to date.

Their work in locating the OSI 1950 Map which has a marked location of a Childrens’ Burial Ground clearly displayed. 

Their resilience in defending and verifying the accuracy of this map at the oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala during April 2021 and for convincing the planning Board to reject the proposed development.

Their continuing campaign to seek the right with the common tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for access to the same and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough. 

The members of the CSSA are the second Cork-based recipients of this International Award which is named in honour of Cork born Mary Harris known around the world as Mother Jones. The award will be presented this week to Catherine, Ann and Maureen at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

A discussion about the role of the CSSA and its contribution to the oral planning hearing will be shown on Saturday 27th November at 7:00 pm on Cork Community Television as part of the online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 21. Further details at www.motherjonescork.com

The Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date;

  • 2013,     Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group).
  • 2014,     Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.
  • 2015      Fr Peter McVerry. 
  • 2016      Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.
  • 2017      Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation). 
  • 2018      Mary Manning (on behalf of the Dunnes Stores workers).
  • 2019      Louise O’Keeffe.
  • 2020      Antoinette Keegan.
  • 2021     Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman & Maureen Considine (for Cork Survivors & Supporters Alliance).

Songs for Mother Jones 2021.

William Hammond organised the recording of seven songs which commemorate Cork born Mary Harris. Frameworks Films undertook the filming and recording of the session on a beautiful morning in Shandon, Cork City. The recordings were held at the old Butter Market garden under the landmark Bells of Shandon during the summer of 2021.

The programme of songs will be shown on Cork Community Television on Sunday 28th November at 8:00 pm.

Karan Casey at the recording at Shandon.

The music video features newly written songs by Karan Casey, John Murphy and Mags Creedon sung by the songwriters.

It also includes a song The Ballad of Mother Jones written by legendary Teresa Ní Chárthaigh of Blarney Street and sung by Māire Ní Chēileachair. Richard T. Cooke has written a song “And the Band played Hallelujah” which he recites. John Nyhan, his son Gearoid and Mick Treacy also contribute a song “Let The Mountains Roll”.   Finally, William features with a waltz he composed for Mother Jones and a song recorded by Gene Autry called “The Death of Mother Jones”.

The Singers.

Máire Ní Chéileachair.

From Farran in Cork, Máire got her love of singing and the Irish language from her parents who are from Kilnamartyra. In 2018, Māire won Corn Ui Riada and was also named TG4 singer of the year, she has recorded two CDs.

John Murphy.

From Ballyvolane in Cork City, he is a prolific songwriter and a member of the Cork Singers Club. He has commemorated the Burning of Cork in song along with some of Corks finest musicians in his recent debut album entitled, Cork 1920, A City In Flames.

Karan Casey.

Karan Casey from Ballyduff Lower, Co Waterford is an Irish folk singer and traditional singer, and a former member of the Irish band Solas. She is one of the most instantly recognisable, alluring and original voices in all of world music. Her recording, Distant Shore, is a collection of potent and beautiful Irish and contemporary ballads.

Richard T. Cooke.

Richard is a true blooded Corkonian and this is evident in the many books, television history documentaries, radio programmes and songs. And this was recognised when he received the prestigious Lord Mayor’s Civic Award in 2009:-” For his lifetime in promoting Ireland and his beloved City of Cork to the world through his writings and through his songs.” Richard is a member of the Mother Jones Committee.

William Hammond.

Known also as Hammy is from Fermoy he has been living in Cork for over 40 years. William has a great love of traditional music and set dancing. He is an accomplished accordion player in the  CD style  and a singer with the Cork Singers Club. William has been organising festivals in Cork for over 35 years including the Cork Folk Festival, Michael Dwyer Fest, Féile Fearmuí and the Mother Jones Festival.

John Nyhan.

John was born in Cork City and is now living in North Cork. Influenced by the Folk Revival musicians including; Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Ewan MacColl, Fairport Convention, Sweeney’s Men, Planxty and Rory Gallagher. John is known throughout Ireland and the USA as a promoter of Folk and Bluegrass concerts and he is joined by his son Gearoid in this recording. His friend Mick Treacy a veteran of the Holy Ground Folk Club in Birmingham and of the folk scene in England and Ireland accompanies.

Mags Creedon.

Mags is a member of the Cork Songwriters Club and she regularly performs poemsong at Munster Arts events with O’ Bheal poetry. She is a Pan Celtic finalist in 2018, and 2019 and has performed on the charity Èalù album 2016 Commissions. Mags is also a member of the Cork Singers Club and has written a song for the Cork Libraries about the Cork writer, Frank O’ Connor.

The filming and recording by Frameworks Films took place on Sunday 29th August 2021 at the old Shandon Butter Market garden in the heart of the Shandon Historic Quarter.  The Cork Mother Jones Committee wish to express our thanks to everyone involved in Cork’s tribute to Mother Jones.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 Events Schedule.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will take place online on Cork Community Television from Thursday 25th November 2021 until Sunday 28th November 2021. We are hoping to have a number of live events, including Q&A’s with the interviewees as well as some live music at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon during the course of the Festival. These are subject strictly to the Covid 19 regulations specified at the time and the attendance will be limited.

Thursday 25th November – Sunday 28th November 2021

Programme of online events on Cork Community Television.

Poster of Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021. Designed by Shannon Smith.

Thursday 25th November 2021

  • 2:00 pm. The highlights of the 2020 online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
  • 7.30 pm. Muriel MacSwiney………The Unlikely Revolutionary.                                     An interview with Anne Twomey, historian and teacher, of the Shandon Area History Group.
Anne Twomey.

Friday 26th November 2021

  • 2:00 pm.  The highlights of the first ten years of the Spirit of Mother Jones festivals.
  • 7.00 pm. Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the death of Tadhg Barry, of Blarney Street.

                       Tadhg Barry Remembered. Documentary by Cork Council of Trade Unions and Frameworks Films.

  • 8.00 pm. Interview with Dr. Donal O’Drisceoil

                       Author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and The Irish Revolution.

Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil

Saturday 27th November 2021.

  • 2:00 pm. Blood on the Mountain produced by Mari-Lynn Evans.
  • 4:00 pm. Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre produced by Lamprini C Tomas and Nickos Ventouras.
  • 6:00 pm. Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Rosemary Feurer.
  • 6:30 pm. Interview (zoom) with Mari Steed, Adoption Rights campaigner.
Mari Steed
  • 7:00pm. Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, CSSA discuss their effort to safeguard the Bessborough Burial ground.
Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien.

Sunday 28th November 2021

  • 2:00 pm. The Mine Wars produced and directed by Randall MacLowry.
  • 4:00 pm. Mother Jones and Her Children by Frameworks Films.
  • 7:00 pm. Dr. Sean Pettit…….An Extraordinary Teacher with an introduction by Richard T Cooke. This film features Sean’s final presentation “The Cork City of Mary Harris” at    the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on 29th July 2016.
Dr. Sean Pettit and Richard T. Cooke.
  • 8:00 pm. The Songs of Mother Jones.

Featuring Māire Ní Chēilleachair, Karan Casey, William Hammond, Mags Creedon,   Richard T Cooke, John Murphy, John & Gearoid Nyhan and Mick Treacy.

These events will feature on Cork Community Television at http://www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will also include Q&A sessions with the speakers at the Maldron Hotel after the broadcasts on Cork Community Television. The capacity is strictly limited in accordance with the Covid-19 regulations for the safety of participants.  Full details on how to attend will be announced later.

A documented Childrens’ Burial Ground erased

The Spirit of Mother Jones festival will broadcast a discussion between two activists of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) which has campaigned to get the relevant authorities to locate and protect the burial ground of hundreds of babies born in the Bessborough Mother and Baby ‘Home’ during its operation from 1922 to 1996.

The discussion will be broadcast on Saturday evening 27th November at 7.30.

Catherine Coffey O’Brien and Maureen Considine discuss how their organisation located a 1950 Ordnance Survey map which showed the location of the Children’s’ Burial Ground at Bessborough and used it as the basis of their campaign to protect the site from an apartment development.

Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien in discussion.

They also discuss efforts to achieve healing for those who suffered.  The memorialisation of the women and children who died in these institutions should be a priority. The class structures within the homes need to be examined in greater detail in order to ensure that the full oral and written testimony of survivors and the archival legacy of the period be secured and open to all in perpetuity. 

Background to the planned development.

By order dated 25th May 2021, An Bord Pleanāla, (ABP) the Irish Planning Board refused planning for an apartment complex of 179 residential units at Bessboro, Ballinure in Cork City. Its decision stated that it is

not satisfied that the site at Bessboro was not previously used as, and does not contain, a children’s burial ground and considers that there are reasonable concerns in relation to the potential for a children’s burial ground within the site associated with the former use of the lands as a Mother and Baby Home over the period 1922 to 1998.

An Bord Pleanála

A second planning application for 67 apartments nearby was later refused by both Cork City Council and An Bord Pleanàla on environmental grounds and the fact that the overall design was no longer coherent without permission for the other blocks in the complex.

While many survivors, politicians and others objected to the original planning application submitted in late 2020 under the Irish planning fast track Strategic Housing Development legislation, in the subsequent oral hearing conducted online by ABP over three days from Wednesday 21st April to Friday 23rd April 2021, the active participation and detailed arguments made by the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) ensured that ABP had no choice but to reject the development.

Through the research and determination of the CSSA, it had discovered an Ordnance Survey original map drawing, dated 1950, clearly marking the site of the “Childrens’ Burial Ground”. Although contested fiercely by the developer, the Alliance’s legal team convinced ABP to reject the planned development which would have effectively desecrated, through ground works, most of the burial ground as shown on the map.

Earlier, the closing date for public submissions to ABP was the 12th January 2021, coincidentally the same day as the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (M&B CHOI) was published.

As the CSSA needed to include remarks on the commission’s final report members were left no option, but to hand-deliver and electronically submit objections to the Cork City Council and ABP before close of business on the same day. No extensions or allowances could be made by the planning system.

According to the Commission of Investigation; 

“the proportion of Irish unmarried mothers who were admitted to mother and baby homes or county homes in the 20th Century was probably the highest in the world”.

An estimated 100,000 Irish women may have given birth in the various institutions during the 20th century. Of the estimated 56,000 mothers who were sent to those 18 institutions investigated by the above Commission, an estimated 9,000 of their babies (15% of the children born) died in them.

Bessborough in Cork was one such institution. Established in 1922, it was owned and run by the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary nuns, based at Chigwell in London. Later in 1933 a maternity hospital was opened. Some mothers were treated privately, but most were paid for by the public assistance/health authorities. 

From 1922 to 1998, 9768 mothers were admitted and approx. 9000 babies were born. Of these, at least 921 children associated with Bessboro died, 761 died in Bessboro itself. Between the years 1940-44, 330 children died there or a third of the total. The burial place of 856+ children and 14 women has not been identified to date. Stillborn infants are not included in any final number of Bessborough dead.

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/4cef9-chapter-18-bessborough/

The Commission of Investigation stated that:

“in spite of serious efforts, it has not been able to establish where the majority of the Bessborough children are buried”.

The Executive Summary Report is blunt;

 “The Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary are unable to identify where the children from Bessboro are buried. The Commission finds it very hard to believe that there is no one in the congregation who does not have some knowledge of the burial places of the children.”

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/22c0e-executive-summary-of-the-final-report-of-the-commission-of-investigation-into-mother-and-baby-homes/

Further planning applications under the Strategic Housing Development legislation for residential development of the Bessborough grounds are expected shortly.

Catherine Coffey O’Brien is a graduate of University College Cork. She describes herself as a tin-smith’s granddaughter and an intergenerational survivor of industrial schools institutions. She was tricked into going to Bessborough in 1989 when pregnant, but soon ran away. She did not want another generation of her family to be lost to the system.

Maureen Considine is a graduate of Fine Art from CIT Crawford College of Art and design and a Master graduate of Art History in University College Cork. She is now a PhD candidate and funded Excellence Scholar in the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences UCC. From Mayfield, she specialises in art history and critiques consultative engagement with marginalised communities.    

Mari Steed: “You have a right to know your identity”.

During the Spirit of Mother Jones 2021 Festival programme, we will show a recorded interview with Adoption Rights campaigner Mari Steed conducted by John Barimo of the Cork Mother Jones Committee on Saturday 27th November at 6.30 pm on Cork Community Television. (www.corkcommunitytv.ie).

Mari Steed was born in the Bessborough Mothers and Babies Home in Cork in 1960 and was just two years old when she was adopted from Ireland by a family from Philadelphia. Years later, her search for her birth mother Josie led to the Magdalene Laundries’ story where her birth mother was confined as a young girl. 

Mari Steed.

She describes her reunion with her mother and how she visited her each year in the UK. During her difficult search for information about her family, Mari also discovered that she had also been included in a vaccine trial in the early 1960s at Bessborough.

Bessboro Mother and Babies Home.

Her growing activism led to her becoming one of the founder members of Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) in 2003 which was mainly responsible for the successful campaign to obtain a State apology for the survivors. Today she is the US coordinator for the Adoption Rights Alliance and is challenging the recent Commission of Investigation into the Mothers and Babies Homes Report. 

She remains disappointed that the survivors of the Mothers and Babies Homes are still not being believed by the State nor have they received “restorative justice” even to the extent of the failure to provide all survivors with basic needs such as advanced medical cards. A full State apology is awaited.  Mari wants the State to enshrine the real story of the tens of thousands of women who were placed in the Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Babies Homes in the 20th century by its permanent inclusion in the school curricula. 

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021.

Cork Community Television, Saturday 27th November, 6.30pm.