Researchers want to learn more about mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland

A Northern Irish mother and baby home research project is making an urgent appeal for volunteers to come forward to share their stories.

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The Derry Journal reports that researchers are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who has knowledge of the Good Shepherd Convents in Derry, Newry, and Belfast, as well as the Thorndale House in Belfast.

Last summer, The Belfast Telegraph reported that “relatively little” is known about the mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland as compared to those in the Republic of Ireland.

The research in Northern Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Health, is being led in conjunction by Dr. Leanne McCormick of Ulster University and Professor Sean O’Connell of Queen’s University, Belfast.

The project aims "to build up a detailed picture of the day-to-day practices of a number of relevant institutions, which may be used to decide if a full public inquiry is needed."

Anyone who lived close to the laundries, who were employed by them in some capacity, or who came into contact with them through the course of their employment are encouraged to share their oral histories.

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Dr. Leanne McCormick told The Derry Journal: “We appreciate that it might not be easy for women to come forward to speak about their experiences of these institutions. No one became a resident within them for happy reasons. However, those who have come forward to record an interview have generally welcomed the fact that someone is finally listening to them.”

Dr. McCormick also said: “We can reassure any participants that the research will be conducted in a sensitive manner and that there will also be support systems in place for those who choose to come forward to share their personal testimony.”

“The identities of all interviewees will also be anonymous and will not be revealed without their written permission.”

Professor Sean O’Connell said: “Women were placed in these institutions for a variety of reasons. Some were sent to them by the courts on probation or on remand and may have stayed for very short periods.”

“However, we would welcome their memories of what they saw and experienced in the Good Shepherd laundries or at Thorndale House. They have a valuable perspective on what living and working conditions were like in these institutions.”

“We need to record as many accounts as possible in order to offer the richest possible history of the Good Shepherd laundries and of Thorndale House.”

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The research team is looking at the following Northern Irish establishments:

  • Good Shepherd Sisters (Marianville and Marianvale) at 511 Ormeau Road, Belfast and 132, Armagh Road, Newry
  • Mater Dei Hostel - 298 Antrim Road, Belfast
  • Belfast Midnight Mission/Malone Place Rescue and Maternity Home - Malone Road, Belfast
  • Thorndale House (Salvation Army) - Duncairn Avenue, Belfast
  • Kennedy House - 8 Cliftonville Avenue, Belfast,
  • Hopedene Hostel - 55 Dundela Avenue
  • Belfast Welfare Hostel - Lisburn Road, Belfast
  • Coleraine Welfare Hostel
  • Mount Oriel Hostel - 4 Mount Oriel, Belfast
  • Deanery Flatlets - Belfast
  • Pre-1948 Workhouses

To contact the research team, please email: [email protected], or phone +44 (0)28 9097 3153.