Developers of laundry in Cork must check for graves

Developers of an apartment complex at a former Magdalene Laundry in Cork must carry out an assessment of the “likely occurrence of undocumented burials of children” on the site before planning permission can be granted.

The details are among the further information requested in relation to the recent planning application for the Good Shepherd Convent at Sunday’s Well on the northside of Cork city.

In February, Moneda Developments sought permission to provide 234 apartments in a project incorporating existing orphanage, convent, and Magdalene home buildings.

However, before planning could be granted, Cork City Council said the possibility that there are undocumented burials of children at the site needed to be fully explored.

The council sought “research on records of residents of the Institution, numbers of recorded deaths and recorded burials including an assessment of the likely occurrence of undocumented burials of children in the context of evidence from comparable institutions in Ireland”.

It also requested that a geophysical survey and test trenches “of all anomalies” identified in the survey is required.

The council has further required that the developers “develop and enhance” the Magdalene graveyard at the site.

“The significance of the Magdalene or ‘penitents’ graveyard, while not within the boundary of the current proposal, cannot be discounted. Please submit revised proposals to develop and enhance the Magdalene Burial Ground as part of the overall development of the subject site. This should include a revision to the rear walkway giving access to the western graveyard to include universal access from the vicinity of the Bakehouse. Dedicated visitor car parking should be provided,” states the council.

The headstone contains the names of just 30 women who died between 1882 and 1973. The grave was unmarked until the late 1990s, when the order agreed to erect a headstone following a campaign by a former resident of the laundry.

However, in 2013, the Irish Examiner revealed that the grave had been badly vandalised and is inaccessible behind an eight-feet-high wall and gates which are welded shut. It remains in that condition today.

Some of the women listed on the headstone are also listed as being buried at another graveyard in Cork.

Mari Steed of Justice For Magdalenes Research said any results from the assessment to ascertain whether there are undocumented burials on the site should be made public after the geophysical examination is carried out.

“In light of the Good Shepherds Sisters’ poor record-keeping and, given that there are significant discrepancies and gaps in the existing headstones marking Good Shepherd graves in Cork, every effort should be made to identify all human remains that may be interred at Sunday’s Well. It is absolutely imperative that the nature of the identification process is determined and carried out by independent experts and the results made publicly available,” said Ms Steed.

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