Belfast Telegraph

New maternity room rededicated to memory of murdered census worker

By Donna Deeney

A hospital room for parents of sick newborn babies first opened 30 years ago in memory of a murdered young mother has been relocated to a new maternity wing.

Joanne Mathers was just 29 and the mother of a toddler when she was shot dead as she collected census forms in the Waterside area of Londonderry in 1981. No-one claimed responsibility for her murder, but republicans seeking to disrupt the census were widely blamed.

A sectarian motive for the shooting of the Protestant civil servant was also not ruled out.

Her murder sparked widespread revulsion and staff from the census office collected money to be used as a tribute to her.

A total of £13,000 was donated at the time, which was used to set up the parents’ room at Altnagelvin Hospital and to buy ultrasound scanners.

The Joanne Mathers room was opened in May 1982 by her bereaved husband Lowry, who faced the difficult task of bringing up their son Shane, then aged under two.

The room was such a benefit to the parents of ill babies that it was incorporated into the new maternity wing and was yesterday reopened by Mr Mathers, this time accompanied by his now adult son.

Shane said: “It filled me with such pride to be here to reopen the room as a lasting tribute to my mother. At the time of her death, Mr Anderson and Mr McCauley from the census office along with her colleague from the Planning Office, Ann O'Neill, raised £13,000 and decided that a room for parents of sick babies would be a cause close to my mother's heart.

“Obviously, as I was under two when she died, I don't have any memories of her, but my maternal grandmother and my father have told me over the years how much I cried for her all the time.

“The reopening of the room in her name was very emotional for both my father and me.

“Her photograph is on the wall along with a plaque explaining who she was and that the room is available as a tribute to her.

“I know parents of any sick child will be completely preoccupied with their baby, but I hope during the time they spend in this room they will take a second or two to read the plaque and take time to consider her memory.

“We were heartened to hear from the trust's chief executive that the Joanne Mathers room is used practically every night, and we cannot think of a better tribute to my mother.”

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