Local councillors agreed last Tuesday that the council should transfer the site of the old Magdalene laundry on Sean McDermott Street to the Office of Public Works (OPW) to develop a centre for research and remembrance.
The OPW will build a memorial to commemorate all those who were confined to institutions, including mother and baby homes, industrial and reformatory schools and the Magdelene laundries, says a government press release issued in March.
The site will also host social housing and an educational facility, says a council report.
The full council still has to vote on whether to transfer the land to the OPW, which is likely to happen at the next council meeting in July.
“We can’t do anything about the past but we can certainly do something for today and tomorrow,” said Ciaran O’Connor, the state architect with the OPW, at the Central Area Committee meeting on 14 June.
The memorial was promised in 2013, after Justice John Quirke, who had interviewed around 400 women who worked in the laundries, completed a review into what form redress should take.
He recommended – among other things – that a memorial be built in the form of a garden or museum on the site in Sean McDermott Street.
Then Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised that all the recommendations would be implemented. In September 2018, councillors voted to block moves by council managers to sell the site to a Japanese hotel company.
A report to councillors on the Central Area Committee on 14 June says that the new centre will include a museum and exhibition space managed by the National Museum of Ireland.
It will hold an archival repository and research centre that will form part of the National Archives and will be a place for reflection and remembrance.
At the meeting last Tuesday, Dublin City Council Director of Services Karl Mitchell said that the new development will turn the area into “a destination point”.
He hopes it would be a living place, he said, “and that it would be respectful of the trauma that occurred but that it would be future-facing”.
The new development would be a vibrant place with opportunities for young people like education, said Mitchell.
The housing will be social housing for older people which will also help to free up houses for families, he said.
“While the centre will be a national institution, it will be designed with a view to accessibility for all survivors,” says the report, and it will provide digital access to records and exhibits.
Councillors welcomed the plans. They called for survivors and people living locally to be consulted on the details.
“This has a great feeling of momentum behind it,” said Social Democrats Councillor Cat O’Driscoll.
There needs to be engagement every step of the way with the survivors and with the community, said Fianna Fáil Councillor Eimer McCormack. “I’m very happy to support it.”
Said Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam: “The fact that the site will remain in state ownership I think is hugely important.” Funding is available for the development to proceed, he said.
O’Connor said that the OPW intends to complete the project in the next five years. “We are hoping to get through the discussion phase and hope to be ready for planning by the end of the year.”
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