The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have decided to sell a 40-acre estate in Cork which accommodates a range of services for vulnerable families and children.
Over the past 20 years, €30m in State funding has been spent on Bessborough in Blackrock on the southside of Cork city to order to maintain and upgrade the site.
100 staff at the facility were called to a meeting yesterday and told that their jobs were to be lost within three months. The nuns are reportedly looking for another service provider to take over the services but not at the existing site.
According to a staff statement released to 96FM, the religious order attached to the site have decided to sell the estate as part of a restructuring operation. Staff have said that the sale is a "run and grab-all attempt by the Bessborough nuns."
Their statement read:
"The 40-acre estate in Cork city accommodates family services which delivers a range of vital services to vulnerable families and children as well as running an award-winning crèche and providing a wide range of employment supports services.
"The nuns are selling the lands so as to maximise return on the sale of this prime development lands. "
It is understood that the staff have effectively been put on protective notice but have been given no reassurances of redundancies or alternative jobs.
Staff say that the the nuns have abandoned their founding purposes and moral compass.
They said: "At the heart of the work of the Bessborough Centre over the last twenty years has been the provision of social inclusion supports for vulnerable families. In recent years the centre has become renowned for its specialist and comprehensive work in supporting families and keeping them together.
"Though the nuns are nominally the governors of the centre at Bessborough they have effectively been absent from the operation and management of the centre for ten years. Yet the nuns are about to run off with a significant amount of money leaving none in Ireland to compensate staff or the State for the huge investment that they have made in the family services."
Staff say the centre is viable, provides necessary services and is a large employer in the city.
Tara Keogh a child protection specialist based at the centre says that they are unsure about their prospects for relocation.
Ms Keogh said: "We are all trying to put our heads trying to think about that but I don't know how realistic it is at this point with such short notice.
"We have the benefit of the large grounds here. Our community employment scheme maintain fabulous grounds here which are very therapeutic and necessary for the families we work with."
Contact has been made with a PR company who are representing the nuns in Ireland. They have yet to comment on the development.
The centre currently offers a residential parent & baby unit for families in crisis who have young children or who are pregnant, a supervised child contact/access service, a family support service to assist families-at-risk in keeping their children safe and to remain together and a community crèche.
It also is home to a secondary school and training centre for second-chance education.