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Nuns told to reinstate folly at Bessborough

A religious Order has been told to prepare plans for the full reinstatement of an historic folly on the grounds of the former Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork following its near-total demolition earlier this month.

And Cork City Council said it wants to see the proposals for the castle folly structure by tomorrow.

It follows a recent meeting in City Hall between city officials and representatives of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the wake of the near total demolition of the structure in Blackrock on the southside of the city earlier this month.

There was outrage when it emerged that the semi-ruined three-bay former Pike family folly dating from 1870-1890, and described as an “important surviving landscape feature associated with the gardens of Bessborough House”, had been almost completely demolished.

A sign on the gate leading to the folly said it presented a “major health and safety hazard due to crumbling mortar and loose stones” and that “repair work” was being carried out.

But when the full extent of the work became apparent - the top two-storeys of the structure were demolished - City Hall opened an enforcement file and called a halt to the work.

The Order said that before it decided to carry out the work, it sought “professional advice” and established that the building is not on the Record of Monuments and Places as maintained under the statute by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland and the Commissioners of Public Works.

It also said it notified the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of its plans.

However, independent city councillor and historian, Kieran McCarthy, described the incident as an outrageous attack on the city’s DNA. Survivors of the mother and baby home also condemned the incident.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that as part of the planning enforcement process, a meeting took place in City Hall recently attended by the council’s head of planning, a senior planner and enforcement planner, the city’s conservation officer and archaeologist, and the Order’s legal and engineering representatives.

The Order and its representatives were advised that a proposal for the full reinstatement of the folly, to be informed by a suitably qualified and experienced conservation engineer and archaeologist, should be submitted to the local authority on or before this Friday.

Local Labour Party representative, Peter Horgan, welcomed the move.

“While the folly while not technically fully protected, it had been the subject of a protection request,” he said.

I saw that request myself. I supported that request. For the folly to be demolished is just breathtaking and council has acted swiftly to halt any further destruction of critical Blackrock heritage and work to reinstate the folly.

Historian Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil also welcomed the council’s actions.

“Apart from the emotional attachment to the folly, given its location, it is an important part of our built heritage,” he said.