'These are the sites of 20th-century atrocities': Hearing on proposed development on Bessborough grounds set to take place

'These are the sites of 20th-century atrocities': Hearing on proposed development on Bessborough grounds set to take place

The planning appeals board will explore a number of issues connected to a planning application from MWB Two Ltd, made under the strategic housing development (SHD) process. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A BESSBOROUGH activist has described today’s oral hearing into plans for apartments on a suspected infant burial ground as just the start of their fight.

Maureen Considine from The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance will be among those coming before An Bord Pleanála to voice their objections to construction on the former mother and baby home site.

The planning appeals board will explore a number of issues connected to a planning application from MWB Two Ltd, made under the strategic housing development (SHD) process.

If approved, it would allow for the development of 179 apartments in three blocks on privately owned land on the former Bessborough estate. This would infringe on an area marked as a children’s burial ground on historic maps.

The board has requested clarification about the location, with a focus on the northwest of the Bessborough folly within the SHD development site. It has already noted that the southern parts of three proposed apartment blocks encroach on to this potential burial ground.

Ms Considine said that, if the graves had been marked, the proposal of such a development could have been prevented.

“We have to ask ourselves if we, as a nation, are people who would willfully build on a childrens’ burial ground,” she said.

Ms Considine continued: “These are the sites of 20th-century atrocities. They may not be atrocities in the sense of war crimes, but they are still atrocities in the sense of neglect and ill treatment.

“We can’t pretend this didn’t happen by covering over everything piece by piece. If this is allowed to go ahead, it will erase the physical landscape in Bessborough more and more. My biggest concern is that this will just be the start.”

She said a number of former residents were suffering in silence and were distressed by the news.

“Ann O’Gorman is the only one of our mothers who has gone public. There are a lot of others who are still living in shame and in secrecy. They are waiting for the information to come out via us or the media. That’s a very difficult way to live.”

The academic said that the proposed development was another kick in the teeth for survivors.

“This is just another extension of the trauma. The resounding feeling is that they still don’t matter. These babies are being treated as poorly in death as they were in life. This development is a black-and-white indicator to survivors that they still don’t matter or are not considered important enough for this society.”

After the plans were submitted, The Echo asked developers MWB Two Ltd if it had ensured there was no children’s burial ground located on lands associated with the proposed development.

At the time, a spokesperson said: “We are very conscious of the historical concerns and sensitivities around the Bessborough mother and baby home. However, while the proposed development sits on a parcel of land associated with the former Bessborough estate, there are no recorded archaeological sites or built heritage features within the site.

“We have engaged experts in the areas of archaeological conservation and heritage in order to approach this development in the most sensitive manner possible. Their report concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the proposed development site contains any undocumented burials associated with the former mother and baby home.”

These plans relate to 179 residential units in three apartment blocks, ranging in height from five to seven storeys.

A separate application lodged with Cork City Council to build 67 apartments on lands at Bessborough, from the same developer as part of the same overall development, was refused earlier this year.

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