Former residents of the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork have been assured that plans to sell it will not affect the power of the Commission to examine the site.
The Irish Examiner revealed that the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary intend to sell the site of the former Mother and Baby Home in a process that could take up to two years. The sale will not include the cemetery and remembrance site areas.
The campus is more recently the setting for the Bessborough Centre, a charity that works with vulnerable families.
However, the facility in Blackrock is also being examined by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission. It 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.
In its monthly update on the inquiry, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said minister Katherine Zappone had been made aware of concerns raised with her department about implications of the sale and that she had relayed these to the commission.
“In terms of the commission’s work, it is important to clarify that a change in the ownership of this site, or any other location which formerly accommodated a mother and baby home, will not affect the powers available to the commission to facilitate its investigations. The legal obligation on a person in possession of relevant information to preserve such information until the commission concludes its work is also relevant,” said the statement.
Ms Zappone’s department was informed in 2012 that the order’s own death register revealed a “shocking” infant mortality rate at the institution and recorded the deaths of 470 infants and 10 women between 1934 and 1953. A total of 273 of these deaths occurred between 1939 and 1944. The department was informed of this information almost two years before the revelations of infant deaths at Tuam sparked international outrage and forced a State inquiry.
Last month, the director of the commission Ita Mangan confirmed to the Irish Examiner that the sale would not affect the inquiry’s ability to fully examine the site.
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