Developers of the new National Children’s Hospital have said no human remains were discovered on site, following claims the locality was once used for the burial of abandoned children.
Former senator and amateur archaeologist John Gilroy has drawn attention to the site's history as a 19th century foundling hospital, which cared for tens of thousands of children, a significant proportion of whom, he said, would have been buried on site.
Mr Gilroy, who does not believe remains would be still be in the ground, said the creation of a new children’s hospital would in itself be a “fitting monument” to those once buried there.
A former psychiatric nurse with an interest in researching State institutions, Mr Gilroy said he came across an 1875 report on the hospital which included its history.
“[The author] estimated that there was probably 200,000 children that passed through the gates,” he said.
“The mortality rate was in excess of 60 per cent in the hospital itself. There was an infirmary for the children that were unwell when they arrived there and the death rate was more or less 100 per cent.”
Since raising the history in the Irish Examiner, Mr Gilroy said he had been contacted by survivors of Ireland's more recent Mother and Baby Homes institutions, and that he believed it was important for modern-day Ireland to face its uncomfortable past.
Having returned to University College Cork to pursue his own interest in studying archaeology, Mr Gilmore said the report on the hospital detailed how children's remains were disposed of at the time but said nothing had been uncovered during its most recent redevelopment works.
That was confirmed on Monday by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board.
“No evidence of archaeological significance or human remains has been found as part of either the planning process or during the current construction phase of the new children’s hospital,” it said, moving to quell any concerns about the site’s history.
In 2016, An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the new children's hospital on the shared campus at St James's Hospital.
“This followed extensive research into past uses of the 12-acre site,” the board said. “Archaeological heritage was also discussed at the three-week An Bord Pleanála oral hearing during the planning process.”
That research was packaged in the Archaeological Heritage chapter of the Environmental Impact Statement submitted alongside the planning application.
“Excavation works were completed on the whole site of the new children’s hospital in 2019, and there were no findings of archaeological significance or human remains then, or since,” the board said.
The original planning application notes two recorded monuments within St James’s Hospital, outside the areas of redevelopment. A foundling hospital and a workhouse, they form the same physical structure originally built as a poorhouse at the beginning of the 18th century.