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  • Northside West

Council urged to halt sale of Magdalene Laundry site

Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 8:00am

Story by Jack Gleeson
Council urged to halt sale of Magdalene Laundry site

Cllr Gary Gannon (SD) at the Magdalene Laundry site.

Council urged to halt sale of Magdalene Laundry site

Cllr Gary Gannon (SD) at the Magdalene Laundry site.

A PETITION calling on Dublin City Council not to sell the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry site gathered over 10,000 signatures last week.

The petition calls on city councillors to support a motion halting the sale of the site to a hotel chain. A vote on the motion was postponed last week but is due to be put before the council on Thursday (September 13).

It’s understood the sale could be worth over €14 million and plans would include over 70 apartments, mostly social housing for older people, and a community centre.

The motion was tabled by Social Democrats councillor Gary Gannon who said selling the site would be an act of “cultural vandalism”.

“Dublin City Council has a responsibility and a duty to halt this sale and not discard this building and all the cultural and personal history it symbolises,” he said.

“Report after report, many of the survivors of the laundries, and huge numbers of the public are calling for the Sean McDermott St Magdalene Laundry to be turned into a centre to remember, honour and memorialise those who were incarcerated in laundries and other institutions.”

Sinn Féin has submitted an amendment motion also calling on council management to withdraw its plans to sell the site.

“We understand that management intend to bring the disposal of the Sean McDermott Street site to the October full council meeting,” said Cllr Janice Boylan.

“Sinn Féin Councillors will vote against this sale.

“Our amendment also recognises the importance of the recent Dublin Honours Magdalenes event to the survivors of the Laundries and their families, and commends Justice for Magdalene Research and the organisers of the event.

“We also note our support for the Lord Mayor’s Commission established to consider a permanent memorial to honour survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.”

Fianna Fáil General Election Candidate in Dublin Central, Mary Fitzpatrick, is also calling for the site not to be sold.

“Any attempt to deny Ireland’s past by selling the Sean McDermott Street site without ensuring that a permanent memorial is erected there would be a complete insult to the suffering of so many women, to their families and their loved ones,” she said.

“This prominent two-acre site was given to the State as compensation for the horrors endured by women in the Laundry. It is infuriating that rather than develop this valuable asset to address the chronic social and economic need for affordable housing in the North Inner City, DCC would sooner sell it to a foreign entity.”

The history of the site dates back to 1821 when a refuge was established at Railway Street, at the rear of Sean McDermott Street (then called Gloucester Street) for ‘troubled and homeless’ women.

Additional land at the site was bought in 1860 and in 1873, Cardinal Cullen requested the Sisters of Mercy to take over the operation of the institution, then known as the Magdalen Retreat.

The Sisters of Mercy requested the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity to take over operation of the institution, which they did in 1887.

The site comprised the laundry, living quarters for the women who worked there, and the convent.

Most Dubliners knew the Magdalen Laundry as Gloucester Street Laundry.

It had capacity for 150 and ceased operations in 1996.

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