Belfast Telegraph

Mayor to lay flowers at unmarked mass graves to remember Belfast's 'forgotten babies'

By Amanda Ferguson

The Lord Mayor of Belfast will attend a special service this afternoon to remember the 11,000 people buried in mass graves in Belfast, including hundreds of babies and children.

During a ceremony at 3.30pm today Nichola Mallon, and deputy mayor,  Maire Hendron, will lay flowers at unmarked mass graves at Milltown Cemetery to remember the city’s ‘forgotten babies’ and other poor and marginalised citizens buried there.

It is estimated around 11,000 people are buried in the mass graves at the point where the cemetery meets the Bog Meadows.

This is the first year that civic leaders have joined Milltown Action Committee for the Christmas flower-laying ceremony.

The committee is comprised of relatives of those buried in the mass graves, and by human rights group Amnesty International, which is working with a number of the families in support of an inquiry.

Nichola Mallon said: “This is an opportunity for the city to remember those who were sadly marginalised both in life and in death.

"Christmas is a time for remembering those of our loved ones who are no longer with us, and I am honoured to be invited by the families to join with them for this special occasion.”

Toni Maguire, archaeologist and chairperson of Milltown Action Committee, whose uncle is buried in the mass graves, said: “Today we pay homage to all those who are buried here.

"We must mark the graves which currently lie in this ground in such an anonymous way, to show that we remember them, but also to demonstrate that society recognises their existence."

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said: “After the revelations about the mass grave of babies at Tuam, it is more important than ever that we discover of the truth of what happened at Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland, including whether their short lives were, in any way, attributable to neglect or abuse while in care and whether those babies ended up in unmarked graves in the Bog Meadows.

"We have asked the First and Deputy First Minister to establish an inquiry into Mother and Baby homes here, as has been promised in the Republic.

"Unfortunately, eighteen months on from the original request to Ministers, families are still awaiting a response."

background

In May 2013 Amnesty International provided OFMDFM with a briefing on Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland and called for them to establish an inquiry into alleged abuses.

In June 2013 and again in September 2014 Amnesty International, alongside women who allege abuse in the homes, met with Junior Ministers Jonathan Bell and Jennifer McCann. Eighteen months on from the original request, Amnesty and the families affected are still awaiting a response.

In June, reports emerged of an unmarked grave of 100s of babies and children in Tuam, Go Galway, on the grounds of a former Mother and Baby Home operated by a religious order, reportedly between 1925 and 1961. There are concerns about how children and women were reportedly treated in these institutions, including high child mortality rates, alleged illegal adoption practices, vaccine trials conducted on children without consent, and denial of medical care to some women.

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