THE sale of a site at the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home should be halted until a full examination of the grounds is carried out, according to a Cork woman who spent time in the institution.
Joan McDermott, originally from Mitchelstown, is calling for the sale at Bessborough to be immediately halted after it emerged plans are underway to sell a portion of the site at Blackrock.
Ms McDermott was separated from her son for 50 years after she gave birth to him while she was interned in the mother and baby home as a teenager.
“Us mothers are convinced there are bodies buried there,” Ms McDermott told the Evening Echo.
“There are mothers still alive, who do not know to this day where their babies are. Mothers who don’t know where their babies are buried.
"Nobody believes that the tiny burial plot is the full extent of the deaths.”
The campaign group, Irish First Mothers, is calling for an excavation of the site and for the sale of the property to be prevented until it is properly investigated.
Ms McDermott added: “Knowing all that, while we’re fighting for our human rights and then they pull this out of the bag."
Cork South central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has also raised concerns that any potential developments at Bessborough could impact on the possibility of uncovering any potential burial sites.
The Sinn Fein TD has called on the Department of Children to intervene in the sale.
“While I understand that the cemetery and surrounding area is not to be sold, many survivors and their loved ones are concerned that there are further burial sites within the grounds," he said.
“It is difficult, in many respects, to reconcile the small burial plot, which I have visited recently, with the mortality rates in the homes," he added.
The lands are being sold by the Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.
However, the site may contain important information in relation to the history of the Mother and Baby Home which was located on the site, Deputy Ó Laoghaire added.
“The Department of Children needs to intervene in this sale, and should ensure that the site is investigated, in a similar manner to the Tuam site, before any sale goes ahead, and certainly before any development takes place in order to get answers.”
Meanwhile, Blackrock Labour Local Area Representative Peter Horgan has called for the State through Cork City Council to purchase the lands at Bessborough.
"A number of years ago there was a draft plan to build houses on that land," said Mr Horgan.
"That plan needs to be restarted and approved as a matter of urgency. Housing across the City is in crisis as we all know and land banks must be utilised.”
Offices currently operating on the site could continue to operate in a redeveloped plan for the campus, Mr Horgan added.