Dublin called to save final women’s workhouse 

Dublin called to save final women’s workhouse 

More than 9,200 people have signed a petition calling on Dublin City Council to halt its plans to sell off the republic’s final Magdalene laundry to a Japanese hotel chain.

Elizabeth Coppin, who was held in three laundries, said Dublin councillors must “think carefully before you vote on selling this historical building”.

Tokyo Inn has offered €14.5 million for the two-acre site and plans to build a 350-bed hotel, student accommodation, shops and 60 social-housing apartments. The plans include a permanent memorial to the women, often unmarried mothers who worked in slave-like conditions in the laundry, until it closed in 1996.

Coppin wrote to councillors: “Do all of you individually and collectively want to be known as the councillors who sold an important part of Irish history? I can’t see the logic of another hotel. Dublin has plenty of them.

“Think of the thousands of Irish women who were enslaved and lived a life of abuse when in this laundry,” she argued. “Any of the women held captive in this laundry could have been a relative of yours. It could have been your mother, sister, grandmother, daughter or wife. Show compassion, humanity and respect for the women enslaved in the laundry by voting against the sale of this building.”

The site on Seán McDermott Street is state-owned but the authorities have accepted a bid for the building from the hotel group. 

Campaigners say the building should be preserved as a national centre of commemoration and education.

Gary Gannon wrote in The Times: “The acceptable narrative of modern Ireland is that we have persevered in defiance of hardship imposed by outside forces or events. Rarely do we look in the mirror and see the cruelty that we tolerated in the name of piety. Many … claim to have become aware only recently of the Magdalene laundries, the last of which was closed as recently as 1996. 

“The same is true of mother and baby homes such as the one in Tuam, where nearly 800 infants were buried in a disused septic tank, or the industrial schools, such as those in Letterfrack and Artane where girls and boys were sexually abused.”

During his recent visit, Pope Francis professed to be shocked when he heard about the Irish mother and baby homes, and he had no idea what a Magdalene laundry was, according to a clerical abuse victim, Paul Redmond, who met him last weekend. “It ended up with me giving him a three- or four-minute crash course through his translator,” Redmond said.

 

Dublin’s Magdalene laundry remarkably operated until 1996. Picture credit: Flickr 

 

 

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