Developers have proposed that no development should take place over any children's burial ground with human remains in situ at the former Mother and Baby Home at Bessborough, Co Cork, where it is planned that 179 apartments be built.
The barrister for developer MWB Two Ltd made the proposal, one of a number conditions suggested in a submission to the oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála, which reconvened today.
David Holland SC for the developer circulated two documents at the hearing. These included a memo with their proposals for planning conditions and a document on an aerial photograph.
Mr Holland outlined these changes. He said they wanted to provide some form of memorialisation but said that they did not want to impose their view.
He noted that there is an angels plot at the site in which at least one child was buried. He said that this appears to be the best place for this memorial.
But he said the developers are open to the views of all concerned and particularly to the views of survivors.
He said that they also want to introduce a memo related to site investigations - in that there would be survivor oversight of such investigations. Mr Holland also said that the developers had separately left an invitation to An Garda Síochána to attend the site.
He also said that the developers accepted all the evidence given by Aidan Harte, the forensic archaeologist who gave evidence yesterday, who said a forensic examination of the entire Bessborough site could take months.
Developer MWB Two Ltd has applied to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Housing Initiative for permission to build 179 apartments in three blocks on a 3.7 acre site in the grounds of Bessborough.
The Cork Survivors' and Supporters' Alliance say the development will encroach on an area marked as a children's burial ground in a 1950 ordnance survey map.
Barrister for the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance, which represents more than 50 families of children who died at Bessborough, David Dodd said the proposed development would be premature.
He said that the application had been launched heavily resting on archaeological evidence which suggests that there are no human remains there.
Mr Dodd said that they had heard from Mr Harte through the course of the oral hearing that that is not something that he would draw any conclusions from what was done there.
He said that it was premature in light of how the evidence has gone for this application to proceed on the grounds that he said they haven't "done the homework", that they haven't shown any evidence that there are no human remains there.
He said that as the heads of a bill are currently being debated, as to what to do with Bessborough and other sites, it was also premature on this basis.
Mr Dodd said under common good this application is different because of the historical context.
He said common good is the most important consideration for An Bord Pleanála in this case because of what has gone before and the understandable reaction from society today and treatment of women and how children who died in the care of the nuns were treated.
He said that what people want now is for the wrongs of the past to be rectified in so far as that is possible.
He said nobody can rewind the clock or cure the hurt but in so far as small actions to make good for what went wrong in the past, those actions should be taken.
He said that the wrong of the past was that the children were simply discarded - they were just brought to a place, hidden and put in the ground without any marking without any fencing.
He said they didn't mark graves or do anything that you associate with a proper burial.
He said that they were trying to rectify that as best they can, and that is all the CSSA want. He said they do not mind residential development on the site but they simply don't want it on top of the burial ground.
He said there was an alternative here: the development just has to move away from the children's burial ground.
He said that if he had started off on the right foot and engaged with survivors they could be all supporting the application.
He said that it was going to be an absolute clash if An Bord Pleanála grant this applicant permission to build apartment blocks on that site - which he said was running entirely contrary to Government policy which was to try its best to rectify the hurt, the wrongs and the crimes of the past.
Mr Dodd said that plans proposed by the developer to include a condition that no development should take place on foot of the permission over any children's burial ground with human remains in situ was an absolutely extraordinary condition to put in.
He said that that was putting the cart before horse. He said they needed to address that at the start so it was premature.
He said that the purpose of a burial ground has two functions: one to allow bodies to decompose, the second was also to allow people to have a place to go to.
He said that one view was that the presence or absence of remains is a red herring because this is the last resting place of the deceased children.
He said that what survivors have said to him is that the essence of their children are there.
This, he said, is where they want to go and celebrate the lives of their children and siblings.
He asked should these people be entitled to go to where their children were laid to rest?
He said the answer is yes - and they have a legal right to that under the European Convention on Human Rights.
A former resident of Bessborough Terri Harrison asked that An Bord Pleanála bear in mind the lives that this has affected.
She said that, she like others, were young Irish girls. "We were expectant mums and we were locked away in these places."
She said that what really grieves her mostly is that for the last few days they have been talking about maps and aerials, and nobody has honed in on the fact that like Tuam, where were the Christian burials for these babies?
In her closing submission to the oral hearing, Councillor Lorna Bogue said she speaks for all Cork City Councillors today and they have said that their position is quite clear.
She said that they don't think there should be development on this site at all until there is 100% confirmation that there isn't anything on this site.
She says they don't think the site should be developed and they think it should be left as that sacred ground.
Cllr Bogue says that there was a failure to consult with those most intimately affected by this development.
She said the survivors had been very, very clear with them about this particular site and those people should be afforded privacy, dignity and respect.
She said survivors had talked about how they wanted to leave this space so they can celebrate the short lives that existed.
She said that now is a time for listening.
She said looking at the evidence the archaeological methodology used by the applicant and aerial photography had been proven to be inconclusive.
She said the impact to the development is permanent and can't be gone back on.
Ms Bogue said it reduces the capacity of people to have a place where there is dignity and respect for the people that they have lost and the experiences that they had in that institution which she said had cast a shadow over the entirety of Cork for as long as it has existed.
In his final submission, Thomas Walsh, a founder member of Know My Own, said a bill before the Dáil in relation to burials should be enacted before any development.
He said it is essential that survivors be consulted at all points.
He said the emotional damage that Bessborough had caused in Cork was immeasurable.
Mr Walsh said that to renew that damage by putting the building on top of what has been accepted as a burial ground for babies for the past 70 years is just unthinkable.
He said he has walked the ground there and has seen where the alleged marked burial ground is.
He said that anyone with half an eye can see it.
He said he honestly believes that this project as presented is obscene and is renewing an old wound for many people.
He said that that should not be allowed.
Barrister for the Developer David Holland said in his closing statement that he didn't doubt for one second that this has been a difficult experience.
He said he wanted to acknowledge the dignity and profundity of survivors and that their desires are entirely understandable.
Responding to Mr Dodd's, he said that the purpose of a burial ground include dignity and the ability of relatives to visit their deceased.
He said the issue of 'common good' arises only if there is a burial ground on this site.
He said that it does not arise unless there is a burial ground on the site.
He said that if there is not a burial ground on this site, there are other elements of the 'common good' that the Board will have to consider.