O’Gorman asks councillors to block Magdalene laundry sale

Toyoko Inn has offered Dublin City Council €14.5m for Sean McDermott Street site

A proposal to stop the sale of the former Magdalene laundry on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin to a Japanese hotel chain will be put to Dublin city councillors on Monday.

Toyoko Inn has offered Dublin City Council €14.5 million for the two-acre site in the northeast inner city. Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, in recent days wrote to councillors asking that they oppose the sale.

The no-frills hotel chain wants to build a 350-bed hotel, student accommodation and shops. The proposal also includes 60 apartments for social housing, likely to be used for senior citizens, and a permanent memorial to the women who were incarcerated in the laundry before it closed in 1996.

The laundry was one of five sites which was to be redeveloped for private and social housing under a public-private partnership (PPP) between the council and Bernard McNamara, during the boom.


The council's deputy chief executive and head of housing, Brendan Kenny, has said the money acquired from the sale to the hotel group will be invested back into the area and the redevelopment of the vacant building would be a " catalyst for badly needed economic and physical regeneration of this street and its environs which is only a few hundred yards away from O'Connell Street".

Redress scheme

However, opposition has mounted to the plan since it was first mooted late last year. Social Democrats councillor Gary Gannon has tabled a motion for Monday's council meeting calling for a halt to the sale. A number of recommendations of a redress scheme for women incarcerated in laundries remained outstanding "including services for survivors and memorialisation", Mr Gannon said.

In this context it was “entirely inappropriate that Dublin City Council is currently offering the Magdalene Laundry site at Sean McDermott Street for sale to private developers”, he said.

In a letter to councillors, Mr O’Gorman asked councillors to support the motion. “This is essential in order to ensure that a proper consultation on how best we might acknowledge and preserve it as a space for memorial and education about one of the darkest parts of our recent history. This history and, most especially, the history of those incarcerated on that site, must be respected and preserved.”

The State should protect the laundry as a “site of conscience”, he said.

The site cannot be sold unless the sale is approved by councillors. A proposal to dispose of the site to Toyoko Inn is due to be put to councillors next month.

The Sean McDermott Street laundry was to have been developed by Bernard McNamara more than a decade ago with 179 apartments, 20 per cent of which would be reserved for social and affordable housing. The scheme was one of five PPP deals between the council and the developer that collapsed in 2008.

Mr Kenny said there was an argument for the council to retain the site for social housing but he said the “immediate area already has one of the highest concentrations of social housing in the whole country”.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times