Tuesday 21 January 2020

'Site of conscience' plan for museum at former laundry

The Sean McDermott Street Magdalene laundry site
The Sean McDermott Street Magdalene laundry site

Talks are under way to transform a former Magdalene laundry in the inner city into a museum, focused on teaching the public about the institution's dark past.

Last year Dublin City Council (DCC) voted overwhelmingly to put a stop to the proposed sale of the Sean McDermott Street site. Japanese hotel chain Toyoko Inn had offered DCC €14.5m to take the site.

Following a public backlash, councillors proposed to turn the last State-run Magdalene laundry into a "site of conscience" - a historic place, museum or memorial that connects past struggles to today's movements for human rights.

The plans are part of the Dublin City Agreement between Fianna Fail, Labour, the Green Party and Social Democrats.


Social Democrats councillor Gary Gannon said the initiative will ensure the atrocities that took place within Magdalene institutions will never be forgotten.

"Work has already begun in listening to the views of survivors, their families and women's groups to develop plans for the site that recognise the social, cultural and personal history that it symbolises," he said.

"This opportunity allows us to repurpose this building into a space where future generations can touch the walls and know that what occurred in these institutions were not exaggerated.

"The appalling case of Majella Moynihan [the ex-garda who was disciplined for becoming pregnant outside marriage] has again brought to the fore Ireland's shameful past and how we are still failing to deal with it in the present.

"The campaign to preserve Sean McDermott as a site of conscience is being led by the survivors of the cruellest parts of our history and supported by a generation of people who are dedicated to never repeating nor forgetting the injustices of our own past."

Mr Gannon said the suggestion will be council policy for the next five years. However, a DCC spokesperson made it clear the initiative is not set in stone.

"Currently there are no plans to develop this extensive site at Sean McDermott Street and there are no plans to develop a museum there," they said.

"In due course there will be discussions with city councillors on the suggestion of a site of conscience, but at this stage there are no proposals on the table for the site and the whole issue of funding for whatever goes on the site will require major consideration."

Survivors have long called for a museum on the site.

Last year, protesters had gathered outside Dublin Castle ahead of the debate on what to do with the building.

Some held signs saying "no sale", others held aloft posters which read "our land is not yours to sell".

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