A mapping expert with Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) says he believes a children’s burial ground associated with a mother and baby home in Cork is located on land now earmarked for apartments.
John Clarkin, who has worked with OSi for more than 46 years, and who has been an expert witness on boundary matters for over 30 years, made his comment during a detailed assessment of historic maps which were at the centre of the second day of An Bórd Pleanála’s oral hearing into plans for 179 apartments on a privately-owned site on the former Bessborough estate in Cork.
Part of the development site overlaps an area marked on historic maps as 'children's burial ground'.
Witnesses for the developers, MWB Two Ltd, told the hearing on Wednesday that the words "children's burial ground", which appear on a 1949/1950 OSi trace map of Bessborough, relate to an existing burial site near the estate folly, and not to the area of land over which they were written.
But Mr Clarkin told senior planning inspector Karen Kenny on Thursday that OSi maps have been recognised in court as the gold standard of mapping in Ireland, and he said he believed a children’s burial ground is located in the field as indicated on the trace map – and not as the developers have claimed in an adjoining graveyard which was associated with the burial of nuns from 1956.
He told the hearing he believed the use of those specific words, "children's burial ground" on the trace map, combined with the size of the font, and the very placement of the letters on the trace map, was done deliberately.
He said the OSi revisers who annotated the trace map – a Mr Horgan who spent four days on site-work on Bessborough in October 1949 and a Mr O’Rourke who spent a day and a half on the site in January 1950 – were regarded as “legends” of their day in the mapping world, and worked to strict OSi guidelines set out in the agency’s so-called "red book".
“In the instance of the children’s burial ground and the blue circle around it, my opinion is that the wording of this and the placement of this was originally queried,” he said.
“The fact that it is ticked shows the final revisor affirmed its correct name and location to the trace examiner, so that the position of the ‘children’s burial ground’ will remain as outlined in the making of the manuscript.
“Revisers employed by OSi Ireland carrying out detailed mapping exercises such as this, in accordance with the rules, do not record new things which are not there.
“Not only is ‘burial ground’ recorded, it is recorded as a ‘children's burial ground’.
“The inclusion of the new name had to be signed off with a Form 1.6 by the congregation.
“The remainder of the map is highly accurate and professionally made.
“Leaving aside the ‘children's burial ground’, there is not one other detail in the trace drawing that appears to be incorrect.
“It is highly improbable, given the fact that the maps were published and were publicly available and used for numerous statutory purposes, including the setting of the net annual values, that the inclusion of a children’s burial ground in error would not be corrected by the congregation, or any other person.”
The hearing continues.