Calls for Former Magdalene Laundry to Be Transformed into Heritage Site
By Shona Murray
September 3, 2018
|Delia Hanney from Broadstone who was in the Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott St from 1973-76, pictured outside the former laundry. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 30/8/18|
The former Sean McDermott Street Laundry should remain in the hands of the state and transformed in to a heritage site, say some of its former detainees.
A major vote on the fate of the site was due to take place at Dublin City Council today but has been adjourned until September 13th.
Sixty three councillors will vote on whether to halt the proposed sale of the laundry to a Japanese hotel group for a bid of around ˆ14.5 million.
"It should be a training centre and a museum for all victims of institutional and clerical abuse in the country," said former resident Delia Hanney.
|Delia Hanney from Broadstone who was in the Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott St from 1973-76, pictured outside the former laundry. Picture Credit: Frank McGrath 30/8/18|
It’s important for "generations to come they could come and see the machines and instruments on display."
"And then have a memorial garden so we never forget what happened; it should be something useful; definitely not a hotel," she told Independent.ie.
|Deirdre Cadwell from Davidstown Co Wexford who was in the Magdalene Laundrys, pictured outside the former Magdalene Laundry on Dublin’s Sean McDermott St.Picture Credit: Frank McGrath 30/8/18|
Ms Hanney was 13 years old when she was sent to the laundry. She was resident in an industrial school in Kilkenny prior to that.
"I was bright, and I enjoyed the education I had in Kilkenny.
But her personality altered to one filled with fear and cruelty when she arrived at Sean McDermott Street.
"I remember getting slapped across the face. It would burn your face. I’d cry every night and wonder why I was sent here.
|Delia Hanney from Broadstone, with Deirdre Cadwell from Wexford and Jane Conlon, Clondalki , all of whom were residents in a Magdalene Laundry, pictured outside the former laundry on Dublin’s Sean McDermott St .Picture Credit: Frank McGrath 30/8/18|
"There were many times I felt I wanted to kill myself but I didn’t have the courage."
Local Social Democrats Councillor Gary Gannon has led a campaign to retain the site which has lain derelict since the laundry was shut in 1996.
|Jane Conlon from Clondalkin who was a resident in the Magdalene Laundry in Sean McDermott St, pictured outside the former laundry.Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 30/8/18|
"This is the only Magdalene laundry in state possession left, we need to develop an understanding of the suffering that went before us," he said.
Jane Marie Conlon was sent to Sean McDermott Street after coming from High Park Laundry. As a child she was raped by notorious paedophile priest Bill Carney while in an industrial school in Dublin.
She gave testimony for the Murphy report on clerical sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese which detailed over 30 cases of rape and abuse by Carney. It is well-regarded that many more existed.
"He started off being nice to me; then started feeling me up. And then he started raping me," she said.
"When I complained that I didn’t want to go out with Bill Carney anymore, I suddenly ended up in the Magdalene Laundry in High Park," she said.
"I was sent to High Park as it was more of a ‘suitable place’, they told me."
She was sent to the training centre in Sean McDermott Street initially. It was meant to facilitate young women receive basic skills ahead of release at the age of 16.
"I was put in the training centre for school, and I always wanted to be a vet. But I got a hard time. I stepped out of line a lot," she said.
"Eventually they sent me here. I was horrible. It smelt rotten. We’d get up, say prayers, and we’d work all day.
"They took away my chance of being anything."
Ms Conlon said the release of the Murphy report helped her because she could take solace that people now believed her about the abuse she suffered.
She told Independent.ie a museum and a proper interactive site would help abuse survivors heal, and be a respectful way of letting the public know what happened throughout those years.
"Why would you want a hotel? Leave it here. Make a museum. Don’t take it down; why would you need another hotel, when this is more important."
Margaret Maguire who wishes to use an alias says she strongly opposes selling the site to a hotelier and says it would be hypocritical of the state to do that.
"As a monument it should be preserved. I wouldn’t like to see a hotel going in there.
"We were honoured back in June for everything we went through.
"If the government meant it then they should act like they do and preserve Sean McDermott Street.
"I never saw pregnant women in there but women who’d come in after they had their babies.
"They were called whores when they were in there. The nuns would say to them you’re like your mother – you’re a whore; they used that word a lot."
Former resident Deirdre Cadwell is also supporting the campaign to keep Sean McDermott Street.
"We need an interactive museum for this generation, and the next generations to see what it was like for women and girls.
"We had thousands in support of us with Dublin welcomes the Magdalena’s.
"Well, stick to your guns and do the right thing. Putting a hotel won’t do anything for the inner city. Utilise the space, there’s lots of land and space. It’s a memory for people who were abused. It would be nice if people who were sent away to the US and elsewhere to come back and see it. A statue won’t cut it," she said.
As disposal of land is a reserve function of city council a majority of one vote is required to pass the motion calling for a halt to the sale.
Sinn Fein has sixteen votes in the council and former mayor Micheal Mac Donnacha has indicated he may vote to stop the sale but so far the party has not disclosed a clear position on the issue.