Book Review

Bessborough: Interviews with survivors highlight the horrifying statistics from a house of pain

Deirdre Finnerty’s sombre and often deeply moving book tells the stories of the young women who endured years inside one of Catholic Ireland’s most notorious institutions

Bessborough House in Co Cork: a name that evokes shudders almost as strongly as Goldenbridge or Letterfrack

In 1930, Irish government inspectors visited the mother and baby institution at Bessborough House on the outskirts of Cork city. The matron, Sister Martina, gave them a blunt assessment of what she referred to as “fallen women”.

“A number of the girls are weak-willed,” she is quoted as saying in the official report, “and have to be maintained in the Home for a long period to safeguard them against a second lapse.”

Many words spring ...