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.
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.
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).