Mother backs calls for State legal action to stop Bessborough housing plan

Taoiseach expresses 'deep concerns' babies may be buried on site
Mother backs calls for State legal action to stop Bessborough housing plan

A mother who believes her daughter is buried on the Bessborough estate in Cork has backed calls for the State to take legal action to protect the site from development.

Ann O’Gorman said the state should do everything it can to preserve the former mother and baby site until the truth of what may be buried there can be established beyond doubt.

Her daughter, Evelyn, is among the 923 children who died at Bessborough between 1922 to 1998, and she is among the estimated 850 whose burial places cannot be established. 

Ms O’Gorman said the investigations must focus on the area marked on maps as "children's burial ground".

If they find one bone, they will find more.

She made her comments as members of the Cork Survivors and Supports Alliance (CSSA) lodged objections against plans for 246-apartments on a privately-owned 3.7-acre site on the former estate.

MWB Two Ltd have applied to Cork City Council for permission to build 67 units in one section, and to An Bord Pleanála through the strategic housing development (SHD) process, for 179 units in an adjoining area. The SHD site overlaps the “children’s burial ground”.

CSSA said Bessborough must be subjected to the same detailed archaeological investigation as was undertaken in Tuam and Sean Ross Abbey.

“This apartment plan cannot go ahead until we get answers,” CSSA said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil on Wednesday that he would have deep concerns about construction going ahead at Bessborough in the absence of “a proper, robust identification of the burial of all children”.

Children's Minister, Roderic O’Gorman, said he shares campaigners’ concerns about the potential existence of children’s remains at the site.

City councillors are set to discuss calls for a compulsory purchase order on certain lands at Bessborough.

Cork East TD, Seán Sherlock, urged the Housing Minister to use powers under the Planning Act to prevent development on the site, while local Fine Gael Cllr Des Cahill said the lands should be used “for healing, not building”.

MWB Two Ltd said they are “very conscious of the historical concerns and sensitivities” involved and have engaged experts to "approach the development in the most sensitive manner possible".

“Their experts’ report concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the proposed development site contains any undocumented burials associated with the former mother and baby home," a spokesperson said.

"However, as part of the planning process, MWB Two Ltd has committed to carrying out a full archaeological investigation on their site.”

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence