Near demolition of Bessborough folly stopped by Cork City Council

Stonework being removed from the detached three-bay-two story folly which was built in 1880 at Bessborough in Blackrock, Cork. Behind the house is a graveyard in use since the 1920s. Picture: Dan Linehan

Controversial works which have resulted in the near total demolition of the historic ‘folly’ near a burial plot at the site the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home have stopped.

The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary confirmed that “work on the Bessborough Folly has ceased”.

“We will now deal directly with Cork City Council on all related matters,” said a statement.

Cork City Council has visited the site and is carrying out an investigation into whether work done at the site warrants an enforcement action.

The Irish Examiner first revealed last week that work had been undertaken on the structure after a sign appeared on a gate leading into the site stating the folly presents a “major health and safety hazard due to crumbling mortar and loose stones” and that “repair work” was being carried out.

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 as maintained under the statute by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland and the Commissioners of Public Works. It also said it notified the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.

The Irish Examiner asked what company the Order sought “professional advice” from but it declined to answer the query.

Christopher Kirwan of the Bessborough Commemoration Committee said the group was “ saddened” at what has happened, particularly as it is in the location where a commemoration to remember mothers and children is held every year.

“We don’t know the exact number of children that died at the institution but we do know it runs into hundreds,” said Mr Kirwan. “These were children that were treated as second-class citizens. As committee members of the annual Bessborough commemoration, we visited the folly at Bessborough and were very saddened by what we saw.”

“The folly had been dismantled to door height and the heavy machinery had taken its toll on the ground. This act makes us believe that the Order has no understanding of the feelings of the people who come to our gathering each year.”

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