The State should purchase the Bessborough site

The State should purchase the Bessborough site

The 40-acre Bessborough site is being sold by the owners the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Picture: Denis Scannell

CITY councillors have called on the State to purchase the site of the former Bessborough mother-and-baby home to stop it from falling into the hands of a private developer.

The 40-acre site is being sold by the owners the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Lands on the fringes of the Bessborough campus were rezoned for housing following a vote by Cork City Council last year prompting concerns that a planning application from potential buyers will be imminent once any sale goes through. It has the potential for up to 500 homes.

The location and nature of burial grounds on the site are mired in uncertainty due to incomplete records.

The order of nuns says it has complied fully with the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes but it cannot provide a definitive answer on the location of unmarked graves of hundreds of children within the grounds.

Councillors have raised concerns over the historical sensitivity of the land and the HSE family services operating in buildings on the site which are set to be evicted once a sale goes through.

Green Party councillor Lorna Bogue has gained support from elected members of the council to write to Minister for Health, the HSE and Tusla requesting further information on any agreements between the State and State agencies in providing funding to the Bessborough centre and its operators.

Ms Bogue said that should there have been any agreements related to funding from the State in place, Cork City Council should seek further information on how these agreements relate to the sale of the centre and site.

She has also called for the site to be purchased by the State if it is sold.

“It’s just really sad that we don’t know where those children are. While there is a lot of information from historical records, there’s a lot that we actually don’t know about the site. In that regard, we should be trying to retain it under public ownership to maintain the dignity of those who are lying there and have been forgotten for quite some time.”

Supporting Ms Bogue’s motion, Fianna Fáil’s Mary Rose Desmond replied: “There are massive concerns for the 105 staff members over a wide spread of services. There is a complete lack of clarity. There is massive sensitivity around the site.”

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