IF the Government can find an extra €10 million to fund the planned event centre, it should be able to find the money to purchase the Bessborough Centre and keep vital HSE services open, Micheál Martin has claimed.
The Echo understands that a party interested in purchasing the former mother-and-baby-home has walked away from a sale.
The 40-acre property is being sold by 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.
That prompted concerns that a planning application from potential buyers would follow any sale. The site has the potential for up to 500 homes.
The site has been leased to the HSE in recent years for a broad range of services for families and children. A significant amount of State funding, including €1.5 million in 2018 alone, has been pumped into these services and staff are still in the dark as to what will become of them.
The Bessborough Centre is considered a leading national centre for therapeutic assessment and interventions for vulnerable families Opposition leader Mr Martin said the “entire facility” should be purchased using State funds or the services could be lost.
“On that land are vital family services for vulnerable families and children. What has developed there over recent years is an extraordinarily high-quality intervention service funded by Tusla on a current basis. The family assessment and treatment services include a parent and infant residential unit. It is an 11-bed facility that provides a continuum of assessment and parenting capacity building, a therapeutic intervention for high-risk parent-infant families.
“..the Government should buy it on behalf of the people.
“A master plan could be developed for its extensive lands, which would add to its existing synergies. The sod was turned for the event centre in Cork four years ago and nothing has happened. The developer said he could not complete the project for €10 million or whatever, and I reckon €20 million is now going into it. Why is it that the most vulnerable and most needy of families and children are always at the bottom of the queue? There is a real danger that these services will dissipate as a result of this sale,” Mr Martin added.
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said discussions have begun between representatives for the Sacred Heart Sisters and Government agencies operating on the site but talks are in the “early stages”.
Mr Martin added that the Government needs to get its priorities straight in regard to funding. “While I am supportive of the event centre, we can find €20 million very quickly for that project, which has taken five or six years to develop.
“We can find that no problem because of political imperatives. It has to be done for politics as the election is coming, the Government promised it, and its attitude is that if it is a case that it cannot deliver it, it had better find another €8 million or €10 million to do so,” he added.