The long-running national children’s hospital plan risks being delayed yet again, after it emerged the chosen site for the building is on the grounds of an ancient mass paupers’ grave.
Archeologists assessing the St James’s Hospital site confirmed the discovery at the weekend, noting thousands of people may have been buried in the location in the 17th and 18th centuries.
According to the checks, the planned site for the new hospital will be in an area which acted as a paupers’ grave and work house in the 1600s and 1700s.
During this time a large number of people were buried in mass open graves, after dying of cholera and other highly-infectious illnesses.
The grave site was developed during the time of the Duke of Ormond, and was subsequently turned into a work house and the location of a fever and isolation facility.
It is unclear what impact the discovery of the site — which was first flagged by archeologists to then health minister Dr James Reilly in 2012 — will have on the time-scale for the hospital building.
However, the fact the archeology team believe the finding is of historic significance and want to examine it further, means it could prove a key stumbling block in planning permission approval for the hospital next year.
“I would expect the burial to be at the west end of the site, but it’s simply not known exactly where it was. Fever burials were a very common thing but there would be no bone remains,” said An Taisce heritage officer, Ian Lumley.
Urging calm over the issue, he said “it may well transpire that the areas affected are already built on, or there could be a car park over the site”, but added that regardless of the outcome, the paupers’ grave location should be commemorated in “some appropriate way”.
The planning team for the new hospital site was launched by Health Minister Leo Varadkar last month as part of the latest move by the Government to push the long-delayed project forward.
The facility will include 384 inpatient beds and 85 day care beds. It is set to go for planning permission with An Bord Pleanála — an issue which ultimately ended hopes of the facility being built at the Mater — next year and to be open to its first patient in 2019.
While most patient groups have backed the plan, the Jack and Jill Foundation and a number of other doctors have insisted a greenfield site near the M50 is a better option.
Mr Varadkar, however, has insisted there can be no more delays to the facility.
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