CONCERNS have been raised about the presence of a digger and groundworks on privately owned lands near the former Bessborough mother-and-baby-home.
A digger was spotted on the site on December 12 carrying out work in an area between an old railway line, the South Ring Road, the Bessborough campus buildings and the heritage park on the lands.
Lands on the site are of an extremely sensitive nature and part of it is believed by experts to be a children’s burial ground - although the specific location has never been confirmed.
A spokesperson for the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary has claimed that no groundwork has taken place on their own land in recent times.
"The process of selling lands at Bessborough, as previously announced, is ongoing. There have been no recent groundworks on our lands at Bessborough," the spokesperson said.
However, a letter from Cork City Council, signed by archaeologist Ciara Brett and director of strategic planning and economic development Feargal Reidy, to a concerned local suggests that work has been carried out nearby on land not owned by the congregation and in private ownership.
“Cork City Council was informed that a programme of archaeological test trenching commenced on Monday 9th December at lands in private ownership at Bessborough.
"This work was carried out under archaeological licence issued by the National Monuments Service, Dept of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
"This work was recommended by the City Archaeologist as part of pre-planning discussions in relation to a proposed development at this site. I visited the site on Wednesday morning (11th December),” the letter stated.
“The groundworks ceased on Wednesday 11th December at lunchtime following discussions with the National Monuments Service and the developer’s archaeologist.
“Cork City Council intend to work with the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation regarding any future works at the site in order to respect the history and sensitivities of the former Mother and Baby Home at Bessborough,” the letter added.
Survivors of the mother-and-baby-home have told The Echo that the works have caused great alarm.
There are also fears for the natural habitat and the potential felling of sapling trees protected under the City Development Plan.
The 40-acre Bessborough property is being sold by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Echo understands that a party interested in purchasing the former mother-and-baby-home campus recently walked away from a sale.
Lands on the fringes of the Bessborough campus were rezoned for housing, following a vote by Cork City Council last year.
That prompted concerns that a planning application from potential buyers would follow any sale. The rezoned site has the potential for up to 500 homes.