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Over 9,500 people sign petition to block sale of former Dublin Magdalene Laundry

A vote on whether to sell the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry to a Japanese hotel chain has been adjourned.

1407 Sean McDermot Scandals_90504960 The entrance to the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin. Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has adjourned a vote tonight on whether to approve the sale of the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street to a Japanese hotel chain.

Councillors ran out of time to vote on a motion proposed by Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon – the vote has been pushed back until Thursday 13 September.

The possible multi-million sale of the site has sparked a debate on what should be done with the former sites of Magdalene Laundries – in this particular case it’s caused fierce opposition to a private bidder taking ownership.

An online petition calling for the sale to be blocked by councillors has been set-up by Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon, and has amassed over 9,500 signatures.

Gannon said that the council has a responsibility to prevent the sale, which 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… We spent long enough brushing issues we didn’t like under the carpet.

Gannon’s stance has also been supported by Amnesty Ireland’s Colm O’Gorman, the Women’s Council of Ireland, and fellow councillor Ciarán Cuffe of the Green Party.

Magdalene Laundries were institutions run by the Catholic Church which took in so-called ‘fallen women’ and gave them manual labour to do – many survivors reported that they were cruelly and brutally treated during their time there.

In October 1996 the Sean McDermott Street site became the last of these institutions to close.

The preferred bidder for the sale, Toyoko Inn, has proposed to build a 351-bed hotel with a meeting room, restaurant and bar, 140 studio apartments, 10 residential units and a car park on the former site. 

original (3) Source: Dublin City Council

original (6) Source: Gary Gannon/Social Democrats

It also plans to convert the chapel into a gallery or an event centre, a community centre to the rear of the portico; and a supermarket.

It’s estimated that the value of the sale would be €14.5 million, and that the majority of the proceeds would go towards the refurbishment of a former school building on Rutland Street.

The plans for the site also include a memorial on the site of the former laundry, as requested by Dublin City Council.

“There will definitely be a memorial for the residents of the Magdalene home… That will be stitched into the development agreement with the developer,” deputy chief executive of Dublin City Council Brendan Kenny told Morning Ireland previously.

The vote on the sale of the former Magdalene Laundry building has been delayed repeatedly – from spring of this year, then May, and now tonight.

What to do with former Magdalene buildings

In June this year, a two-day event was held in Dublin to facilitate a discussion with Magdalene Laundry survivors about how they would prefer their stories to be remembered.

Suggestions on what the buildings they were kept in should be used for have ranged from selling the buildings, to creating a commemorative garden, to “burning the building to the ground”.

In June of this year, it was announced that reparation would finally be paid to survivors by the Department of Justice (the State provided funding to the Catholic Church to house women in Magdalene Laundries).

On the Sunday of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland, the Stand for Truth protest marched in silence to the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry.

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