Mayor of Cork Cllr Mary Linehan Foley. Photo: Brian Lougheed

Lord Mayor's diary: Cllr Mary Linehan Foley

The past year has brought about a massive shift in Irish life, as much of what we took for granted was called into question.

Undoubtedly, the ways we work, the ways we travel, and the ways we appreciate one another, and our homes, will be changed forever.

As a nation, we have also had to come to terms with some dark truths about our shared history. Acknowledging and coming to terms with this past, which is within living memory for many of us, is an important point in the maturity of our young nation and an essential step in making this nation a home for all of its residents.

As many will be aware, I am the child of a mother and baby home. I was born in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home. This is a fact I never shied away from. I have come to know my birth mother and consider myself to be very fortunate. But I know there are many who have not been so fortunate.

As Mayor of the County of Cork, I would like to say I am deeply sorry. Sorry to all the mothers and babies who suffered and continue to suffer. Sorry to the mothers and babies who endured such appalling mistreatment. Sorry to the mothers and babies who were abandoned. Abandoned by society and state.

I offer this apology as County Mayor and on behalf of Cork County Council. This apology goes out to those who were failed by a multitude of institutions including this local authority.

Bessborough Mother and Baby home was, at the time of operation, within the jurisdiction of Cork County Council. As a council, our ultimate priority is the welfare of our residents. Welfare was not afforded to the residents of this mother and baby home.

The care, compassion and concern which should have been a guiding light was missing. Welfare was replaced by neglect. Worst of all, the most vulnerable members of our society were utterly ignored and shunned.

As Bessborough Mother and Baby home now falls within the remit of Cork City Council, I welcome the announcement made by Lord Mayor Cllr Joe Kavanagh on the establishment of a working group to deliver the actions set out in the Government’s action plan.

It’s almost a contradiction for me to issue an apology on behalf of an organisation that I was myself was a survivor of; and now a member of.

But I want all survivors to know that I mean this truly and sincerely. I know that while these actions took place in the not too distant past, as a society we have transformed entirely. But we must never forget the part we played in this painful past, never forget what happened and ensure it never happens again.

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