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National College of Ireland in 'active discussions' with council over former Magdalene Laundry site

The laundry on Sean McDermott Street was the last to close in the State in 1996.

magdla Our Lady of Lourdes convent on Sean McDermott Street. Source: GoogleMaps

THE NATIONAL COLLEGE of Ireland is in ongoing discussions with Dublin City Council regarding the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street, TheJournal.ie understands. 

The council said it is consulting stakeholders and “interested parties”, including NCI, at the moment over the future of the site, the last such laundry to close in the State. 

It’s understood discussions between the council and the college, located on Mayor Street in the IFSC, have been ongoing for several weeks with a view to using part of the former convent for educational purposes. 

The redevelopment of the site on Dublin’s Sean McDermott Street has been a talking point for several years. Last year, councillors rejected the site’s sale to a Japanese hotel chain Toyoko Inn after a campaign led by Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon. 

The council, which is looking for a partner to develop the whole site, said it has “previously considered the use of the chapel [attached to the convent] for artistic, educational and community purposes as very suitable for this building”. 

However, the council has “no plans” to apply for state funding for a memorial for Magdalene Laundry survivors. 

One recommendation from the May 2013 report by Justice John Quirke on compensation for the Magdalene women was that an appropriate memorial be built at the Sean McDermott Street site. 

Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon, who said the site could be used for educational purposes, argues that the State should help fund a memorial, as promised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil in 2013.  

“It is a grotesque tribute to the hypocrisy of this State that no funding has yet being provided to develop such a memorial,” Gannon told TheJournal.ie.

“Apologies prove hollow when the State reneges upon its promises to build lasting memorials in the hope that society will forget the suffering that was allowed to happen in our country. It makes us cowards.”

The laundry was the last to close in Ireland in 1996 and was demolished by the council in 2005 following a fire. 

As part of the recently drafted ‘Dublin Agreement’ – which sets out council policy and plans for the next five years – councillors have set out a plan to develop the space as a multipurpose ‘Site of Conscience’. 

Magdalene Laundries operated across the state ostensibly as rehabilitation centres for women who became pregnant outside of marriage, women with mental disabilities or homeless women. The incarcerated women were not not permitted to leave on their own free will and only in recent years has the State tried to make amends for the abuse and punishment meted outed by the religious orders.

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