Former Magdalene Laundry in Galway city to be used as safe haven from domestic abuse

Sisters of Mercy donate building to Cope on a 99-year lease

John Concannon and Jacquie Horan of Cope Galway accept the keys to the former laundry building from Sr Elizabeth Manning and Sr Caitlin Conneely of the Sisters of Mercy. Photograph: Joe Travers

John Concannon and Jacquie Horan of Cope Galway accept the keys to the former laundry building from Sr Elizabeth Manning and Sr Caitlin Conneely of the Sisters of Mercy. Photograph: Joe Travers

Tue, Apr 16, 2013, 06:00

A former Magdalene Laundry building is to become a new refuge for domestic abuse sufferers.

The building, located on Forster Street in Galway City, operated as a laundry from 1922 to 1984. It is now set to be transformed into Waterside House, the city’s emergency safehouse for families suffering from domestic abuse.

The Sisters of Mercy donated the property to abuse charity Cope Galway on a 99-year lease as a result of the organisation approaching them earlier in the year.

Speaking at the announcement, chief executive of Cope Galway Jacquie Horan said she could not express how delighted and relieved she is.

“We approached the Sisters of Mercy as we believed the location of the convent site, the security aspects and the potential to renovate all pointed to its suitability as a possible alternative to [the charity’s existing building] Waterside House,” she said.

“The synergy between the history of the site and the current reality for Waterside House clients, and the fact that the Rape Crisis Centre has been on the site for some time already, also led us to believe that the convent site offered real potential.”

Ms Horan said their current location was not up to a high enough standard as it made families in need stay in one large room each and did not have access to basic cooking facilities.

“Although the current refuge offers safety and security to women and children escaping in an emergency situation, and this is obviously of the utmost importance, this type of living arrangement is totally unfit for purpose, and families in a state of distress deserve better.”

In 2012 the centre accommodated 100 women and their families, but did not have space to take in a further 200 referrals of women and families, who had to seek alternative care.

The charity will conduct an examination of the site to ensure it is suitable as a long-term domestic violence refuge in terms of size and design.

“Financing the project will be a challenge, but we believe it is an exciting and positive challenge for Galway and we will be inviting everyone to join us in converting this opportunity into a reality,” Ms Horan said.