herald

Friday 24 March 2017

City Magdalene site may contain human remains, expert warned

Flowers at the site of the Magdalene Laundry in Donnybrook
Flowers at the site of the Magdalene Laundry in Donnybrook

Dublin city's senior archaeologist has told the private developer of a former Catholic institution that the site may contain human burials.

Dr Ruth Johnson indicated that because the property at The Crescent, Donnybrook, was a former Magdalene Laundry, it could contain remains.

Significantly, her observation was made as part of the planning process in September 2016, five months before the confirmed discovery of children's remains at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam last week.

There are calls for every Magdalene Laundry, mother and baby home and industrial school to be searched for secret deposits of human remains - and to halt development on these sites until this is completed.

Councillor Mannix Flynn said the archaeologist's assessment highlighted how it was already known that every former Catholic institution site could contain remains.

"These were babies flushed down the toilets, dumped into sceptic tanks," said Cllr Flynn, who is a survivor of Letterfrack Industrial School.

"The archaeologist's observation is quite right."

In August last year, a company called Montlake lodged a planning application for the development of 25 apartments on the Donnybrook site.

In October, Dublin City Council (DCC) wrote to the company asking it to ascertain if there were "any remaining artefacts within these extant buildings", which "may be of interest to the general public considering its historical and social past".

The request came following Dr Johnson's observations, submitted the previous month.

"The proposed development consists of the former lands of Saint Mary's Convent and the Magdalene Laundries.

"Given its association with the Magdalene Laundries, there is potential for burials being uncovered during the course of works," she said.

Close

She also said it was in close proximity to a possible early medieval settlement.

Dr Johnson recommended no construction or site preparation work be undertaken until the archaeological work was completed.

Any findings should be reported to the Department of the Environment, she said.

A spokesman for Montlake told the Herald it was the management company on the project.

He said Pembroke Partnership was behind the development, contractor Hardwicke was undertaking the work and that the archaeological survey had already begun.

However, calls to both the Pembroke Partnership and Hardwicke went unreturned yesterday.

Questions to the city archaeologist also went unanswered.

Cllr Flynn and Magdalene Survivors Together have called for searches of former religious institution sites and the halting of developments.

Last night, city representatives requested DCC to meet with Magdalene Laundry survivors with a view to establishing a memorial on a Sean McDermott Street site, which is up for sale.

Councillor Gary Gannon had initially requested a halt to the sale of the building - which was the last home to close down in 1996 and the only one currently in the possession of the State - until excavation took place.

This had been requested by the Justice for the Magdalenes Research group, along with the Adoption Rights Alliance, in order to see if there are any unmarked graves of children at the location. The amended motion received cross-party support.

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