Calls have been made on the Taoiseach to directly intervene to stop a development on the Bessborough mother and baby home site in Cork.
Campaigners have expressed outrage over plans to build 246 apartments on land they believe overlaps a children’s burial site linked to a former mother and baby home.
Micheál Martin told the Dáil that the application is “close to, if not on, the burial site itself” which he said is “unacceptable”. However, he added that he cannot intervene with a planning authority.
Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns told the Dáil that plans for a strategic housing development and apartment blocks have been lodged for an area that has been documented as a children’s burial ground, which she said “cannot go ahead”.
“More than 900 children died while in the care of nuns at Bessborough and the burial place of more than 800 of those children is still unknown,” said Ms Cairns.
“The State has a history of facilitating the worst kinds of abuse and a very recent history of unnecessarily compounding the suffering caused by that abuse.”
Sinn Féin’s Pat Buckley said survivors and supporters are very concerned and have asked that An Bord Pleanála defer the application.
The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, which represents more than 50 families of children who died at the former mother and baby institution in Cork City have already called on the developers, MWB Two Ltd, to withdraw their applications for a site close to the home until the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation’s final report is published.
Mr Buckley said doing this would provide fairness to both the developers and the survivors.
Mr Martin agreed that “we cannot be building on a burial site”.
“Initially, the survivors were anxious that it would be preserved as a burial site, which to me was a reasonable position to put forward,” said Mr Martin.
But the Taoiseach added: “I cannot intervene with a planning authority. I have made my views known but I am not An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála will exercise its functions in regard to the planning act.”