I know from my own engagement with survivors over the past months that respectful treatment of burial grounds is an issue of great sensitivity. In response to the final report of the commission on mother and baby homes, the Government has committed to a strategic action plan encompassing a wide-ranging suite of 22 actions. These actions include advancing legislation to support the excavation, exhumation and dignified reburial of remains where interments are manifestly inappropriate and where their preservation in their current location would not be the right policy response. It has also committed to engaging with former residents and their advocacy groups on the question of appropriate, dignified local memorialisation of burial sites. These actions reflect the complexity of the issue and the need to respond carefully according to the specific circumstances of each case. My officials consulted with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage when we were preparing the action plan in response to the final report of the commission and will continue to engage with the Department in respect of the development and implementation of the strategic action plan.
My officials also engaged with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage with regard to preparing the recent legislation on burials. These consultations were primarily focused on the interaction of the general scheme with the relevant planning legislation. The Deputy will be aware that, where development is proposed at a site, it is subject to the full rigours of the planning code. Planning authorities are independent in the performance of their functions and look at issues and applications on a case-by-case basis. As the Deputy made reference to, I made a submission in respect of two planning applications on the lands of the Bessborough mother and baby institution. These applications were rejected by Cork City Council and An Bord Pleanála respectively. I will continue to engage with all relevant Departments with regard to this question. I was not aware that the Deputy's question specifically related to the issue of development plans but that is absolutely appropriate and I will engage further with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.