Late last year B.B.C. Radio Northern Ireland made a programme called Limbo Babies.  The documentary featured the personal experiences of  Eithne Hyland, Ron Smith-Murphy, a member of a rural community in Ireland, a representative from the Roman Catholic Church and a member of Staff at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Eithne very movingly recalled the births and deaths of her three children Geraldine, Thomas and Lisa.  Eithne’s three children were born at a time in Ireland when parents were lead to believe that their babies were gone to limbo when they died.  A belief that caused awful sadness and pain to parents and families who were already coping with unbearable unrecognised grief.

The documentary also included Ron Smith-Murphy’s account of her parent’s journey to Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to trace their daughter Carol, 33 years after her birth. When Carol was stillborn it was the practice for the hospitals in Dublin to bury the babies in a communal grave in Glasnevin cemetery called the Holy Angels Plot.  Over 50,000 infants are buried in the Plot, which is now called the Angles Memory Garden.

Infants who died un-baptised were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. In many parishes, they were buried in the hedgerows and ditches around the cemetery between dawn and dusk by parents themselves.  In some parishes there were infant burial places called cillíní. A farmer in rural Ireland offers his recollections of a time when he witnessed a baby buried in the local cillín.

The documentary is perfectly pulled together with the skillful commentary and interaction of Olivia O’Leary, Irish journalist, writer and current affairs presenter.

The whole idea, research and management of the programme came from Ophelia Byrne, Producer, B.B.C. Radio Northern Ireland.

I’m so glad the story of the babies has been publicly acknowledged in this way – as has the significance of the contributions to the programme
says Ophelia Byrne, after the Awards.



Limbo Babies

Presenter: Olivia O’Leary
Producer: Ophelia Byrne
Audio Supervisor: John Simpson
Exec. Producer: Rachel Hooper

An excellent, moving account of a little known subject without sensationalism or sentimentality. In this simple but effective production, a fine presenter struck exactly the right tone and by getting an apology from the Church which went beyond the expectations of the listener.

BBC Radio Ulster for BBC Radio 4

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