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The proposed development MWB Two Ltd

Planning permission sought for apartment buildings on site of former Mother and Baby Home

The burial place of 859 children who died at the Co Cork home is unknown.

A PROPERTY DEVELOPER has lodged an application to build two apartment buildings on the estate of a former Mother and Baby Home institution in Bessborough in Co Cork, despite a similar plan being rejected last year.

MWB Two Ltd has applied to build 90 units in two apartment buildings ranging in height from five to eight stories.

Survivors rejoiced last year when the company’s plans for a fast-track strategic housing development (SHD) were rejected by An Bord Pleanala.

At an oral hearing in April 2021, MWB Two Ltd argued to ABP it was “highly unlikely” the site in question contained a burial ground.

In its decision, ABP said it was “not satisfied that the site was not previously used as, and does not contain, a children’s burial ground”.

Carmel Cantwell, whose brother William was just a few weeks old when he died in St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork in 1960, welcomed the planning board’s choice at the time.

“I’m delighted that the right decision has been made. Hundreds of children are unaccounted for and today’s decision is for them. Someone is finally listening,” Cantwell told The Journal.

Despite “very extensive inquiries and searches”, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was only able to establish the burial place of 64 children – meaning the burial place of 859 children is unknown.

Prior to planning applications, the current state of the site was already subject to controversy after Cork County Council admitted in June that it was unable to find the burial place of twin babies who apparently died in Bessborough. 

A CCC official checked the records of 13 graveyards within the local authority’s boundary after a councillor intervened on behalf of the twins’ sister.

The proposed development for Bessborough will be significantly smaller than last year’s proposal and will include 43 one-bed units, 30 two-bed units, 18 three-bed units, a creche with capacity for 25 children, parking and bike storage.

Developers have stated that the build would be “planned and designed with a focus on social and affordable housing units, and is also guided by the core principles of sustainability and accessibility.”

Survivors of Bessborough, and the families of those who died there, remain angered that the site won’t be excavated in a bid to locate the burial place of over 850 children.

In the summer, campaigners were told that the Institutional Burials Act, which allowed for excavation at another former mother and baby institution in Tuam, Co Galway, would not apply to Bessborough.

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