No evidence of human remains at Bessborough, archaeological experts say

ireland
No Evidence Of Human Remains At Bessborough, Archaeological Experts Say
An image of the Bessborough Centre in Blackrock, Co Cork.
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A planning hearing for a controversial housing project on the site of a former Mother and Baby home has heard no evidence of human remains were discovered at the site in Blackrock, Co Cork.

A portion of the site at Bessborough, marked as a Children's Burial Ground in a 1950s map, was previously examined, however, archaeologist Niamh Daly, who was involved in the 2019 excavation, told the hearing the samples collected did not indicate the presence of any human bones or teeth, according to The Irish Times.

"Therefore, no human remains, or graves were recovered or identified in the eight test trench areas," Ms Daly said.

Last month, An Bord Pleanála announced it would stage an oral hearing into the planning application for 179 apartments amid concerns by a campaign group that the development will encroach on the grounds where they believe infants were buried.

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The proposed development has caused controversy as it emerged from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes that 923 infants born at or associated with Bessborough died between 1922 and its closure in 1998.

The commission could find burial records for only 64 infants.

The hearing heard from surveyor Paudie Barry, who examined an image taken by the Irish Air Corps in 1951, noting an area near a "blue swoosh", surrounding the label of the Children's Burial Ground on the 1950s Ordnance Survey Field Trace map.

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"I carefully examined the area of the blue swoosh which was extracted and projected from the 1950s OSI trace map. I can say with a high degree of confidence that I saw no evidence of excavation in this area... no evidence of soil disturbance reflected in the vegetation within this," Mr Barry said.

Testifying on behalf of MWB Two Ltd, the company submitting the application for the housing development, forensic archaeologist Aidan Harte said it was clear the Bessborough site had been disturbed by previous groundworks.

He also highlighted two areas of priority for any forensic excavation as they are in close proximity to the only known burial ground in the area.

The oral hearing is ongoing.

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