THE value of lands sold to developers by the congregation of nuns that own the Bessborough estate in Blackrock is again in the spotlight following the publication last week of the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.
Accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) for the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Trust CLG state: “The properties at Bessborough, Cork were all valued by external valuers Savills in July 2020 and valued at €9.95m on an open market basis.” The accounts say that one of these properties, valued at €6.5m, sold in June 2020 for €6.85m.
However, what the nuns raised through the sale of 3.7 acres to developers MWB Two Ltd, which is waiting for a decision on planning applications to build 246 apartments, remains unknown.
MWB Two Ltd (also building nearby at the old Right Price Tile site bought for c €5m) is under pressure to hold off on the development out of respect to survivors of the mother and baby home at Bessborough. Its own expert’s report concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that the proposed development site contains any undocumented burials associated with the former mother and baby home.
Campaigners have called on the State to protect the site from development and order a thorough investigation of its estate for possible burial sites. The Commission found that 923 babies associated with Bessborough died between 1922-1998, but the burial sites of the vast majority have not been identified.
Cork County mayor Mary Linehan Foley, born in the Bessborough home, has called for a stay on the granting of planning permission for apartments on part of the land until it can be established whether any of the babies are buried there. Roderic O’Gorman, the children’s minister, has made a submission on the proposed development, drawing the attention of the planning authorities to the sensitivity and significance of the site..
The Blackrock Bessborough estate originally extended to 60 acres, but parcels have been sold off over the years. Last year, the sisters gifted 2.26 hectares, including the buildings on the site now occupied by Bessborough Services, to the HSE.