Bessborough survivors ‘anguished’ by folly destruction

Cork City Council investigators have visited the site of the former Bessborough mother and baby home to ascertain if the destruction of the historic ‘folly’ near a burial plot warrants an enforcement action.

A council spokesperson said that investigators had visited the site yesterday and “strongly advised that works should cease”.

“We are continuing to assess the facts which may result in enforcement action,” said the spokesperson.

Sinn Féin’s Pat Buckley raised the matter with Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil, saying the destruction of the folly had caused considerable anguish to survivors of the former mother and baby home, given its location near a burial ground.

“It may seem a minimal issue, but the survivors of the mother and baby home in Bessborough are angered and anguished that developers have moved onto the site and begun knocking buildings without it being public knowledge, or a geophysical radar scan having been carried out,” said Mr Buckley.

These events are atrocious. I would love to get an answer on this issue

Mr Coveney asked Mr Buckley for a file on the matter and said he would “make sure it gets to the right person”.

The semi-ruined former two-storey, three-bay structure, dating from 1870-1890, is owned by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is located on the site of the nuns’ burial plot.

The Irish Examiner reported last week that work had begun on the structure after a sign appeared on a gate leading into the site suggesting the folly presents a “major health and safety hazard due to crumbling mortar and loose stones”.

The order said it was carrying out “repair work” to the structure and had notified the Mother and Baby Homes Commission. It did not answer questions about who was involved in the work and said it would “deal directly with the Commission on all related matters”.

However, it subsequently emerged over last weekend that almost half of the structure had been demolished.

The order said that before it decided to carry out the work, it sought “professional advice” and established that the building is not on the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) as maintained under the statute by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland and the Commissioners of Public Works.

City officials have now confirmed that all work on the site has been ordered to stop.

Workers’ Party activist and survivor of a mother and baby home Catherine Coffey, said the folly’s destruction was an “outrageous act” which had hurt survivors and their families.

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