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‘Special place’ could be established in borough to bring solace to parents mourning loss of baby

'One family in particular came to me following the loss of a little twin regarding a special commemorative space in our borough where bereaved parents can sit, reflect, cry, talk or just be still'

A special commemorative space to help bring comfort to parents who have lost babies could be established within the borough.

It comes after calls by Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty raised during the leisure and community services meeting on Monday night.

Councillor Flaherty was speaking from personal experience, as she and her husband lost their darling son Jake in 2013 at just two years and two days old.

The former Lord Mayor has on many occasions raised issues surrounding the need to cater for families who have suffered this devastating loss.

But she used tonight’s committee meeting to highlight to other Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough councillors just what a private space would mean.

And the call was timely given the week in which it came.

She said: “This is a very special week for many, many people. This week now to the 15th of October marks Baby Loss Awareness Week, which helps us acknowledge the scale and impact of pregnancy and baby loss.

“The death of a baby is not a rare event. It can happen to anyone – one in four – you just never think it will happen to you.

“The silence and stigma that prevails with this ordinarily has been so much exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic that we find ourselves still within. That itself is bringing a lot of difficulties for parents in this particular situation at the minute in our hospitals and I think very much of those at the moment.

“Those of us who have been through this think of all our babies every day, not just during this particular week, but this week is very important nonetheless.”

Having thanked Jonathan Hayes, head of estates and asset management, and his team in the civic buildings for lighting up buildings pink and blue this week in recognition of baby loss awareness, Councillor Flaherty asked for a report on her suggestion to come back to the committee in November.

She said she had spoken to officers “at length about a little project some parents” had raised with herself.

Added Councillor Flaherty: “One family in particular came to me following the loss of a little twin regarding a special commemorative space in our borough where bereaved parents can sit, reflect, cry, talk or just be still – somewhere that other people can go and actually sit and count their blessings.

“That same little family have just had their rainbow baby and I send them a hundred million congratulations on their new daughter.”

Councillor Flaherty said there were still a “number of other issues around child loss and bereavement that need addressed”.

She continued: “We have problems with parents who struggle to obtain birth certificates, that needs addressed. We are still waiting for parental beravement leave and pay and of course we are still awaiting the children’s funeral fund. These are things that all weigh heavy on many of these parents’ minds.

“I’m very lucky in ways – I know that sounds strange to say – but I do have a grave to visit and I remember all my babies there. Many don’t have that. And such a space within our borough will be such a comfort to many.

“The officers have been absolutely amazing with me and the family and other families and there are groups in the borough who do work on baby loss and bereavement who need our support and do very, very good work.”

She asked that a paper be brought forward on the matter.

Councillor Catherine Nelson, who chaired the committee, voiced her support, while the head of estates and asset management, Mr Hayes, said he would take it as a personal project to ensure that that report was brought back to committee and councillors in November for their consideration.

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