Recently, when looking for the remains of my mother, Nora Mccarthy, in the derelict ruins of the Good Shepherd Convent, Orphanage and Magdalene Laundry at Sunday's Well in Cork City, I was told of a mass grave at the far side of the ruins to which I couldn’t gain access.The two women who were with me, former inmates of Magdalene Laundries, informed me that behind the forbidding high grey stone walls, lies a no mans land with a disused mass grave pit, into which were thrown the bodies of hundreds of women and children. Razor-sharp barbed wire, to ward-off or deter anybody curious enough to climb, is used effectively along the wall that connects to the gable end of the Good Shepherd Convent, with the triangular portion of the wall between the edges of the intersecting roof and would normally b easier to climb from, without the sharp razor wire. The barbed wire has been placed because the Nuns and Cork City Council don’t want anybody to pry into their unauthorised secrets that lie only a few feet beneath the gravel burial site now covered in concrete slabs, enclosing the entire disposal site. This no man's land at the Good Shepherd Convent lies between the former Women’s Prison (known as the Cork City Gaol) and the Convent, Orphanage and Magdalene Laundry. Denoted as extra-parochial space, it is a ribbon of land hidden in unconsecrated ground between these buildings belonging to different regimes of power. It was beyond the rule of the Convent itself, beyond the rule of the City and Council, and beyond God’s rule.
The purpose of this unconsecrated ground was for the disposal of hundreds of dead slave women from the laundry, as well as children and unbaptised dead babies from the Orphanage - all of whom the nuns believed to be culpable of malevolence. The vindictive and malicious Good Shepherd Sisters believed that if you do not see someone or something frequently, you will forget about it – out of sight, out of mind. Hence the no man's land with its secrets hidden away from prying eyes.
As I walked among the ruins I felt a sinister atmosphere; a feeling of oppressive evil. It is now obvious that the malignity of the nuns’ nature was shocking. Malignity is a deep-seated and virulent disposition to injure and is more dangerous than malevolence because it is not only more successfully concealed, but it often instigates harmful acts. Shocking acts were committed by the nuns in their final act of outrage - the disposing and concealing of hundreds or thousands of bodies of their slave women and children on the convent grounds. It wasn’t only in the gravel pit at the Good Shepherd Convent that this outrage occurred however, but also in mass graves in the local cemeteries in and around Cork City and in disposal sites located on the vast grounds around Ireland owned by religious orders.
Of course the resident women and children knew how and where the dead were disposed of and of the final indignity of being dumped in mass pits. When death came for any of their slave women and children, all of whom were indoctrinated with the fundamental tenets of Catholicism, the nuns’ policy was to say, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of your humiliation at our hands, for it pertains to the appointed time of your end. We are going to dispose of you into a chasm that will lead to the darkest abyss and subterranean fires of hell for all eternity. Nobody will find you.”
Any doubts about the existence of mass graves at all the Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools in Ireland are being laid to rest by the first survey of the site of a septic tank at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in County Galway, into which approximately 800 bodies of babies were flushed. According to reliable sources, 1,800 more bodies of women and children will be found on the land surrounding this septic tank. The site is now a children’s playground.
When the Religious Orders in Ireland abandoned their Mother and Baby Home, Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools, they thought they had destroyed everything. They went on an orgy of destruction of paper evidence and even attempted to knock and burn down some of their abandoned buildings and level the earth around hidden disposal sites. Some Religious Orders planted trees and bushes on the sites to conceal their crimes. While they believed that they had removed all evidence of their heinous crimes, they hadn't. Forensic archaeologists are using tools that see below the ground and a vast number of bodies and bones will be found and studied.
When I was wandering around the derelict ruins of Good Shepherd Convent, Orphanage and Magdalene Laundry, in Cork City, it suddenly dawned on me that this monstrosity, built in 1870 and a hideous blot on the stunning landscape of Cork City, must have a septic tank. It is reasonable to assume that if 800 bodies are in a septic tank in Tuam’s Mother and Baby Home and the Magdalene Laundry, and at High Park Convent in Drumcondra, Co Dublin another few hundred bodies of abandoned women and children were found in secret disposal sites, then it must be reasonable to assume that the same scenario will occur at all 200 abandoned Mother and Baby Home, Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools in Ireland. In both the Tuam and Drumcondra cases, the nuns sold their lands claiming that there were no hidden bodies there. This has been proved to be a lie.
In the case of the Tuam, Mother and Baby Home in County Galway, forensic researchers have found a secret, subterranean passage running from the foundations of the Catholic Church and underneath the newly built children’s playground to the large Victorian septic tank at the far end a few hundred meters away. According to the forensic archaeologists, more bodies of hundreds of babies and children line the long, dank subterranean passage. Tens of thousands of bone fragments can still be seen strewn on the soggy earthen ground of the subterranean passageway. As the ground was dug into, human remains were discovered and, on the surface, local foraging dogs have uncovered numerous bones which have been identified as human. Despite all this overwhelming evidence, the Bon Secours Sisters have issued a written statement saying that there are no bodies and no mass graves.
High Park Convent in Drumcondra, Dublin, the second case alluded to above, was in fact one of the most notorious Magdalene Laundries in Ireland at the time. In 1993, when the site was sold to property developers for millions of Euros it emerged that 133 women were buried in a secret pit and then another 22 bodies were found underneath them. The good Nuns of this convent, the Sisters of Mercy, claim to know nothing about the sites. My full account can be read by clicking on the two links below.
I am now of the informed opinion that the grounds of all Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools and Orphanages in Ireland must be investigated with a range of geophysical surveying tools, including ground penetrating radar, resistance survey and electrical thermal imaging to determine where the secret burial sites are. Of equal or more importance is an examination of all Septic Tanks in these Religious-run Institutions. We clearly can’t take the word of any Religious person or Religious Order on this matter - the facts must speak for themselves.
A word of warning, however; no geophysical methods will reveal conclusively what is below the soil- they do not detect human remains for example. All the excavated matter from the ground and the septic tanks will have to be analysed in laboratories to determine its constituent parts. Considerable and credible evidence exists to suggest that there are tens of thousands of bodies of women and children in secret burial pits and septic tanks in all the Religious-run Institutions in Ireland. My work is just the beginning and further work is needed to understand the complexity of the hideous secrets hidden in all the Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools, and Orphanages of Ireland. Owen Felix O’Neill
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