Plans to turn a former Magdalene laundry on Seán McDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city into a national memorial have been branded as “disgusting” and “disgraceful” by Independent councillor Mannix Flynn.
In an angry outburst at a Dublin City Council meeting on Monday night, Mr Flynn said the building, which he compared to British serial killer Fred West’s house, should be demolished, and he castigated his fellow councillors for supporting the proposal before storming out of the council chamber.
The National Centre for Research and Remembrance will be developed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to honour former residents of mother and baby homes, industrial schools, reformatories, laundries and related institutions. However, the Seán McDermott Street building, the last laundry to close in 1996, is owned by the city council and the project required the sanction of councillors.
Mr Flynn, a former industrial school resident and abuse survivor, said he was “completely opposed” to the “token gesture of a memorial” on the site where “wholesale horror” had been perpetrated.
“I am totally in favour of demolishing the whole entire site. Would you keep Fred West’s house? Would you keep Rosemary West’s house? You wouldn’t, so why would you want to keep a disgusting piece of muck where wholesale horror took place in Sean McDermott Street?”
He said it was “shameful” that his fellow councillors were supporting the transfer of the site to the OPW, and said a more fitting memorial for abuse survivors would be to “wipe it off the face of the earth”.
In a personal attack on newly-elected Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy, Mr Flynn said she was a “real, real disgrace” and “disgusting” for presiding over the decision, before he left the chamber.
Several councillors condemned Mr Flynn’s behaviour, but others said the issue could be triggering for abuse survivors.
Labour councillor Mary Freehill said the council chamber was “not a therapy centre where people can act out their catharsis”.
Councillors approved the proposal which will see the OPW develop the site over a five-year period. The centre will hold records related to institutional trauma that will form part of the National Archives. There will also be a museum and exhibition space, the development of which will be led by the National Museum of Ireland.
The wider site will include social housing in a newly-built block, again likely to be reserved for senior citizens, and local community facilities, as well as an educational and early-learning facility.