LLM students create public education resource concerning Dublin’s Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry site

May 13 2020 Posted: 11:00 IST

This week saw the publication of a new website dedicated to reaching a shared vision for, and ensuring the development of, the site of the last Magdalene Laundry to close in Ireland: at Sean McDermott Street in Dublin. 

The Open Heart City website was created by LLM students, Kelly Ledoux, Cécile Harrault, Rebecca Naous and Sara Alerr, and Dr Maeve O'Rourke, as part of the work of the Irish Centre for Human Rights’ Human Rights Law Clinic and specifically as a result of the students’ pairing with the voluntary group, Justice for Magdalenes Research

The website outlines a plan by a group of architects convened under the name ‘CoLab’ to consult with the local community and also with abuse survivors, academics, activists and others, leading to the production of a Vision Document for the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry site and a temporary Pavillion where members of the public can view and discuss the contents of that Vision Document. CoLab are also making efforts with others to bring the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry site back into temporary use as soon as possible. 

The Open Heart City project is being assisted not only by the Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway but also by the Centre for Ethics in Public Life and the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin, and the School of Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast. Over the past semester, LLM students from the Irish Centre for Human Rights have collaborated closely with M.Arch. students from both UCD and Queen’s University, demonstrating the value of discussion, investigation and creative endeavour crossing disciplinary boundaries.

Key to our LLM students’ work on creating the Open Heart City website was the gathering and communication of a range of efforts that have been ongoing to bring about truth-telling and memorialisation regarding Ireland’s 20th century institutional and gender-based abuses and their continuing effects. The website contains a useful list of numerous previous official consultation reports and statements at the conclusion of inquiries regarding memorialisation. The website contains information for the general public about the possible meanings of memorialisation, and states’ legal obligations to ensure memorialisation in contexts of gross and systematic human rights violations, according to international law. The website also provides an introduction to the Sites of Conscience movement worldwide. 

At www.openheartcitydublin.ie you will also find a summary of the LLM students’ efforts during and after the 2020 General Election to ascertain the views of elected representatives regarding a public call by a coalition of survivors, academics and practitioners, including several NUI Galway staff members, for the establishment of an independent national repository of historical care-related records in order to enable truth-telling and other forms of accountability for ‘historical’ abuses. 

This work complements the efforts of other students in the LLM Human Rights Law Clinic, who are working with Adoption Rights Alliance and with several survivors of residential schools and Magdalene Laundries to progress the campaign for access to information concerning ‘historical’ abuses in Ireland. You can read more here, and we look forward to posting further updates on the LLM students’ clinical work in due course.