Site by laundry grave sold for €61.8m

LAND surrounding a former mass grave at the largest Magdalene Laundry was quietly sold by the order of nuns who ran it for €61.8 million during the boom.

The revelation emerged as representatives of the women imprisoned in the laundries met with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

They discussed the new inquiry and their case for an apology, compensation and a pension for the women involved.

The Justice For Magdalenes group (JFM) said the €296m made in property deals during the boom by the four orders who ran the laundries must form part of the conversation on redress.

The Magdalene Laundry site at High Park, Drumcondra, was the second most lucrative deal involving 18 religious orders responsible for abusing children in residential homes. In total, the 18 orders made €667m in property deals between 1999 and 2009.

When the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity first sold a £1.5m tract from the same High Park campus in the early 1990s, construction workers found a grave where 133 women were buried.

In 2009, the order told the Department of the Taoiseach it had sold two more parcels of land on the same High Park site.

The larger sale was made in 2006 when Barina Construction paid €55m for a 2.7-hectare green area inside the compound.

Six years earlier, a site that housed the laundry’s Martana House was transferred for €6.68m.

When it supplied the sales data to the Department of the Taoiseach, the order asked that the information would not be circulated beyond the committee charged with examining the assets of religious congregations.

The order also informed the department it had agreed to swap its second, and smaller, Magdalene Laundry at Sean McDermott Street with Dublin City Council.

As part of the exchange, the council supplied it with a free 20-year lease for a purpose-built hostel and a new convent.

Neither Barina Construction, Dublin City Council or the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity were in a position to comment on the deals.

Yesterday, JFM and other representatives of the Magdalene survivors met with Mr Shatter for over two hours to discuss the inquiry into alleged torture.

The laundries were run by the Sisters of Mercy, the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and the Sisters of Charity.

JFM group spokesman Jim Smith said they were assured all departmental records would be made available to the new committee, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese.

Mr Smith also welcomed assurances the inquiry would be cleared to investigate cases where the state was complicit by failing to act as well as incidents where it paid directly for services.

Reacting to revelations in the Irish Examiner, Education Minister Ruairí Quinn said he was reopening negotiations with the congregations involved.

He said if they were not willing to provide an additional €200m towards the redress compensation, he would have to make unwelcome cuts elsewhere in the education budget.

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