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'needs to be told' Woman born in Bessborough Mother and Baby home shares the reality of being a survivor

'She knew her fate, and mine. She made it clear she wanted me adopted to the US, lest I languish in Ireland and end up as she did.'

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The names of children who died at Bessborough mother and baby home are projected onto Athlone Castle in Co West Meath as part of the Herstory Light Show to celebrate St Brigid’s Day. Picture date: Monday February 1, 2021.

The names of children who died at Bessborough mother and baby home are projected onto Athlone Castle in Co West Meath as part of the Herstory Light Show to celebrate St Brigid’s Day. Picture date: Monday February 1, 2021.

The names of children who died at Bessborough mother and baby home are projected onto Athlone Castle in Co West Meath as part of the Herstory Light Show to celebrate St Brigid’s Day. Picture date: Monday February 1, 2021.

A woman who was born in Bessborough Mother and Baby home before being adopted by an American family has shared her mother’s heart-breaking story.

The unnamed woman who goes by ‘Culchie Woman’ on Twitter told of her mother’s life in different Magdalene laundries across the country.

“I’ve never, ever shown this photo but for the day that’s in it, the story needs to be told. Sit back and strap in. #MotherAndBabyHomes,” the thread began, accompanied with a photograph of the woman’s late mother Josie in a hospital bed.

“My late mum, Josie, was the last of four children born non-maritally in Wexford in 1933. Adoption didn’t exist then and her two older brothers were raised in-family, because they were boys and useful. A sister born before her died age 4 in the county home.”

“Josie was packed off to St Dominic’s in Waterford where she spent roughly [14] years getting an ‘education.’

"She fondly remembered day trips to Tramore and only ever referred to this time as ‘when I was in school in Ireland’,” she explained.

“At roughly 14, her mother (now in Manchester) apparently made ‘noises’ about getting Josie back. So the nuns sent her to St Maries of the Isle in Cork, where she proved to be an extraordinarily talented seamstress.”

“At roughly 15, the Mercy nuns sent her to Sunday’s Well Magdalene Laundry, where she sewed for f*cking Ireland and the Good Shepherds for 10 years,” she added.

The woman then explained that when she was released from Sunday’s Well in 1957 she got a job at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin.

“She met my father at a dance in 1959, and nature (and starvation of affection) took its course.

“Pregnant and without any family support, she was shifted between St Pat’s Navan Rd, Dunboyne, and ultimately down to Cork in Feb 1960.

“She followed the rules (knowing her way around the nuns well), still seeing for her keep, with the Sacred Hearts at [Bessborough]. She had me via c-section at St Finbarr’s on 8 Apr ‘60. We’re lucky the level of care had risen to that stage, or we’d both have died,” the woman shared.

“She knew her fate, and mine. She made it clear she wanted me adopted to the US, lest I languish in Ireland and end up as she did.”

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In 2002, the mother and daughter joyously reunited.

“I loved Josie and couldn’t help but admire her dignity and tenacity to overcome her background in the UK and although she would talk openly about her time in Bessborough, she could never open up about her time in Sunday’s Well or industrial school.”

“It was her dark secret. I respected that, but desperately wanted her to apply to the Magdalene scheme for her own sake,” the woman said.

“She had lost her husband in 2005 and was living in an ageing council house in Swindon. I knew we could do better for her. She was largely immobilised and needed a single-floor place. I’d planned to come over and care-give, given I’d lost my job in the US.”

But that wasn’t the end of Josie’s heartache. In 2013 a man posing as an NHS caregiver took advantage of her and left her “in a state of extreme neglect, abuse and ill health.”

“She was found in extreme dehydration and hypothermia in late November 2013, and was (after much long-distance phone haggling with her and EMS), taken to hospital. She gradually began improving and was looking forward to me coming over on 23 December.”

When the woman arrived on Christmas eve, she was informed that her mother had a stroke.

“I sat with her until 26 Dec, playing Irish music on my phone and cuddling her, until she drew her last breath.”

The woman then tagged Green Party TD and minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth Roderic O’Gorman in a tweet stating that herself and her mother are owed better from the Irish state.

“@rodericogorman: you and the Irish State owe both Josie and I so much more than your lip service. Think of that photo every night when you go to sleep. Illegal, forced, trafficked. Adoption cost us so much. I only got 12 years with her. Should’ve been more.”

It comes as he recently announced a €800m redress scheme for Mother and Baby home survivors.

"In terms of the number of the estimated beneficiaries, it will be the largest scheme of its type in the history of the State,” he said.

"It represents a significant milestone in the State's acknowledgement of its past failures and needless suffering experienced by so many of its citizens."

He said that the scheme is "in recognition of the time spent in institutions, the harsh conditions, the emotional abuse and other forms of mistreatment, stigma, and trauma experienced while resident there".

The scheme has been slammed by some survivors with founder of Beyond Adoption Clodagh Malone saying that survivors were “at the bottom of the pile.”

“It’s all about politics and the political will is just not there. The Government knows a lot of survivors in a few years will be gone. Some of them were hoping to get that few quid to bury themselves… I am just shaking with anger,” she said.

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