The sale of the the former convent and Magdalene Laundry in Dublin’s North Inner city to a Japanese hotel group has been blocked by Dublin City Council. The proposed sale of the property had proved to be extremely controversial, seen by many to be yet another example of Ireland brushing it’s uncomfortable and difficult history under the rug.
The Japanese hotel group had acknowledged the “sensitive nature of the site”, and proposed building a memorial garden on site – a suggestion that pleased no one, least of all the survivors.
At a peaceful demonstration on Thursday, activists and survivors stood outside of City Hall to protest the sale. Among them were some who have also been involved with the recent housing protests, as the land was to be sold to a hotel group, a key concern amongst many housing activists. They held up signs reading “No Sale”, “Our Memories Our Land” and “Separate Church and State”. Many of the cars that passed blared their horns in support of the demonstrators.
In a special meeting held on Thursday the 13th, DCC members voted 37 to 8 (with two abstentions) to halt the sale of the property. Survivors of the laundries applauded from the public gallery. Gary Gannon, the Social Democrat Councillor who proposed the motion, told RTÉ that “there is a simple request and responsibility on us as a council custodians of that building, to provide a place where people can be remembered in an honourable way.”
With the sale halted, talks will now turn to the future of the building. Many of the survivors have called for it to be remodelled into a museum and interpretive centre.