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Dublin City Council has 'no plan' to redevelop former Magdalene Laundry site

Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon says he does.

The former Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street.
The former Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street.

Updated Oct 13th 2018, 8:50 AM

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has no plans for the former Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street after councillors voted to reject the site’s sale last month. 

The council had proposed to sell the two-acre site in the north inner city to Japanese hotel chain Toyoko Inn which had offered the council €14.5 million for the site.

Toyoko Inn planned to build a hotel with 350 rooms, 55 one-bedroom apartments for social housing, a supermarket, a cultural centre and a memorial garden at the former laundry site. 

Following a campaign led by Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon, however, councillors voted overwhelmingly in September to block the sale of the site, which is the last remaining of its kind still in State ownership.

In June, survivors of Magdalene Laundries around Ireland gathered at the Mansion House for a two-day event. A main talking point of that gathering was how the women would like to be memorialised. 

Four months on, Social Democrat councillor now says he is in consultation with architects to forward his own proposal for the site. 

Dublin City Council, which owns the site, currently has “no plans” for the site, according to a spokesperson. 

Local independent councillor Christy Burke, who abstained from last month’s vote, says that the original plan to sell the site was a good option. 

We were getting a dignified memorial garden for the Magdalene women. They deserve that, every inch and blade of it.

In addition, Burke says that social housing and economic development would have been welcomed by locals. 

Fine Gael councillor Ray McAdam, who approved of the sale, says that certain locals are angered that no alternative has been offered up following last month’s vote.  “It should be redeveloped. It’s a prime two-acre site just off O’Connell Street.”

My worry now is ‘Who’d want to do business with the council?’

McAdam says he “certainly doesn’t see anything happening in the short-term” and that he has “seen sites lie idle for far too long”.

That site has the potential for massive redevelopment and the transformation of that area. I don’t see where a Plan B is going to come from.

A National Monument

Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon says that he is currently developing a proposal for a “national memorial centre” at the site. 

The Magdalene Laundry, which stood behind the red brick convent on Sean McDermott Street, was the last to close in Ireland, in 1996, and was demolished by the council in 2005 following a fire.

Linking in with survivors groups and architects, Gannon says that his proposal for the site will include a museum dedicated to survivors of institutional abuse as well as community cafés and market stalls. 

We’re trying to develop a proposal that keeps the memory of the site, looks at what is needed in the area and some sort of national memorial centre that is part-museum, part-community services that plays up the great history of the area. 

“There has to be something that really regenerates the area. It’s a massive site so we also want housing for the elderly on the site”.

Gannon says that if central government funding is unavailable for the project then he plans to seek philanthropic funding. 

Gannon plans to have a proposal for the site put together by November. 

Lord Mayor Nial Ring is supportive of Gannon’s plan saying “we will come to a good conclusion.”

Something has to happen. Something will happen.

Asked if it would support such a plan, the council, which owns the site, reiterated that it had no plans and “nothing further to add”.   

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