OUR AGONY; Graves of unbaptised babies cannot be marked as millionaire landowner 'refuses' memorial site.
THE millionaire owner of land where hundreds of unbaptised babies are buried has "refused" to let a cross be put up at their unmarked graves.
Former beef baron Hugh Tunney has ignored requests from local people who want to erect the memorial to the infants who were rejected by the Catholic Church.
The children were buried in a field on the estate which was once the home of Lord Mountbatten but it is now owned by Tunney.
The tycoon has been slammed by local people who claim he refused to allow the monument on the site, forcing them to erect it on the side of the road.
Historian Joe McGowan, speaking at the unveiling of the memorial near Classiebawn Castle estate at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, said: "The stone will stand for ever in silent rebuke to the memory of Hugh Tunney who lived in Classiebawn Castle in the year 2006.
"Our hurt is understandable but maybe Hugh Tunney is more to be pitied than blamed. He could be a part of the community here with us today."
Mr Tunney failed to give permission to have the memorial on the actual site and he ignored several written requests over two years.
Mr McGowan, head of a committee that campaigned for the memorial, told the crowd: "In time to come people may ask why the stone is on the side of the road rather than on the graveyard itself."
Earlier, Mr McGowan released copies of the letters to Mr Tunney.
One, dated February 2, 2005, asked the estate owner to forget past differences with the locals and added: "It is not right that you should deny the local people access to the little graveyard.
"On the contrary, if you were to throw your weight behind our efforts you would be seen as a humane, concerned and caring person.
"Surely heaven would smile if differences could be buried and a new beginning made over the graves of the innocent."
In recent years, Mr Tunney has been in dispute with local people and the planning department of Sligo County Council over work on the sand dunes, the felling of trees and the blocking of rights of way.
During one of the rows, over the tree-felling, he was quoted as saying: "If they want an amenity, the least they can do is pay for it. This is the Celtic Tiger, not a charitable institution."
He has strongly denied any wrong-doing.
Mr Tunney did not respond yesterday to queries left on his voice mail about the latest dispute.
Classiebawn was once the holiday home of IRA victim Lord Mountbatten, murdered nearby in 1979 along with members of his family and 15-year-old boat boy Paul Maxwell from Enniskillen.
Irish Mirror Comment: Page 6
POIGNANT: Children at memorial for babies in Co Sligo' UNVEILING: Locals were disappointed cross had to be put up at side of road