The religious order which owns the Bessborough campus in Cork City is in for a multi-million euro windfall after it confirmed it is to put the site up for sale, writes Noel Baker and Conall Ó’Fátharta.
Staff at the facility were informed on Thursday that plans are underway to sell the large site in Blackrock in a process that could take up to two years.
The campus is a former mother and baby home and more recently the setting for the Bessborough Centre, a charity that works with vulnerable families, including offering therapeutic care and education.
The site has come under intense scrutiny in recent years over activities alleged to have occurred there when it was a mother and baby home, including the possible falsification of death certificates to facilitate clandestine adoptions here and overseas.
The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary confirmed to the Irish Examiner that it is to put the site up for sale, but will not include the cemetery and remembrance site as part of the portfolio, and said any sale will be on condition that a new building is put in place to house the continuing work of the Bessborough Centre.
According to the statement: “The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary can confirm that a decision has been taken in principle to sell the site, owned by the congregation, at Bessborough. As part of our overall restructuring and rationalisation, we are examining our capacity to run services and manage property into the future, in keeping with our present resources.
“The cemetery and surrounding area will not be included in the sale and will continue to be maintained by the sisters locally; this will include ongoing access for those who have a connection with this remembrance site.
“Auctioneers have been requested to arrange a sale of the Bessborough Estate — and this will be on a conditional basis — that the terms of sale must include the provision of a new build facility to cover the activities of the present service, associated with the residential and community-based family assessment and support services.
“We expect the entire sale process will take two years.”
The Irish Examiner has revealed the existence of HSE reports expressing concerns over the “staggering” numbers of children listed as having died at the institution, particularly from the 1930s into the 1950s.
More recently, it was revealed that files of vaccine trial victims in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were altered in 2002, just weeks after the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse sought discovery of records from the order running the home.
According to the statement, the Bessborough Services chief executive informed staff of the proposed sale of the site earlier this week, and the congregation also thanked staff and said they looked forward to supporting them in their work into the future.
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