State's last Magdalene Laundry to be taken over by OPW

ireland
State's Last Magdalene Laundry To Be Taken Over By Opw State's Last Magdalene Laundry To Be Taken Over By Opw
The two-acre site on Sean McDermott Street closed as a laundry in 1996 and has lain idle since 2006.
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Sarah Slater

The last Magdalene Laundry in the State to close, which was to be taken over by an international hotel chain, is now being taken over by the Office of Public Works (OPW) which will be overseen by Irish Ambassador to the UK, Martin Fraser.

The two-acre site on Sean McDermott Street closed as a laundry in 1996 and has lain idle since 2006. Two years later, the building suffered a partial collapse rendering the former laundry site unusable.

The Sisters of Mercy managed the institution from 1873-1886, before the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity took over from 1887. Dozens of women are known to have died at the laundry.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity later transferred ownership of the buildings at Sean McDermott Street to Dublin City Council (DCC) as part of a property exchange.

Mulvey Report

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In February 2017, the Mulvey Report recommended specific measures to support the long-term economic and social regeneration of Dublin's northeast inner city, suggesting that the council put the building up for sale.

At an Area Committee meeting of Dublin City Council on Tuesday, councillors were informed by local authority management that the land which is “still held” by them will be taken over by the OPW for development plans to be carried out over a five to seven-year period.

Councillors, who unanimously backed the plan, heard there is a three-year budget plan in place which will see the site turned into 50-bed units for senior citizens whose current accommodation has become too large for them, an educational centre, a memorial centre to the women who worked at the laundry, and a public park.

As part of the Master Plan, the OPW intends to secure the building by November to prevent any further deterioration of the building and due to Health and Safety Concerns.

In 2013, it was recommended by Justice John Quirke that the site should be turned into a remembrance centre but in 2018 there was a proposal with the council to sell the site to an international hotel chain.

Mr Fraser, who was secretary general at the Office of the Taoiseach for 10 years, will monitor the progression of the plans.

Memorial

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The development of a memorial centre was promised by the Government as part of the Action Plan it devised following the publication of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in January 2021.

Former lord mayor of Dublin and north inner city Independent councillor Christy Burke said he was “reassured” that the best use of the site is now “on track” due to the OPW and Mr Fraser being involved in the oversight with the council.

“It is a dignified use of the site and fitting memorial to the women who were incarcerated in the laundry. It’s about time that a master plan has now been signed off on and it will be a breath of fresh air for the area.

“As part of the plan, which is a policy of the Council, employment will be provided to locals during and after the works are completed at the site.”

The National Centre for Research and Remembrance will include a museum and exhibition space, the development of which will be led by the National Museum of Ireland.

It will also include a research centre and repository of records related to institutional trauma in the 20th century, which will form part of the National Archives, and a place for reflection and remembrance which has been approved by the Government.

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