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Friday 23 August 2019

Naming luxury property after its orphanage past criticised as 'tone deaf'

The entrance to The Orphanage in York Road, Dún Laoghaire
The entrance to The Orphanage in York Road, Dún Laoghaire

Chrissie Russell

A former resident of a children's home has blasted developers for being "tone deaf" after rebranding the site as a luxury co-living space - called 'The Orphanage'.

Beth Wallace (50) spent the first two years of her life in and out of the care at the Dún Laoghaire institution, then known as The Bird's Nest, and was sickened when it was revealed yesterday that the new development was trading on its past incarnation.

"I'm horrified by the level of insensitivity," she told the Irish Independent.

"I actually feel like I've been punched in the stomach. It feels like they are capitalising on something that affected the lives of hundreds of people.

"I don't understand how something so grossly offensive can be justified."

The York Road property operated as an orphanage from 1859 to 1977 and was also one of several institutions revealed to have been involved in clinical trials carried out on babies and young children in the 1960s and 1970s.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the development said its controversial name - The Orphanage - had been chosen to reflect the history of the building and because "when you are there it will become your adopted home".

Ms Wallace, now based in Cork, was born in a mother and baby home and then moved to The Bird's Nest.

"Those first years are a formative time of life when you look for a secure attachment that will affect the rest of your life. I didn't have that security or safe place," she said.

"People who have no experience of institutions want to believe it's all warm and fluffy, but the people who lived there know what it was like.

"There were bars on the windows. It was like prison for children who were carrying the sins of their parents. To say 'it can be like an adopted home' feels grossly insensitive.

"I accept that there is a need for housing and office space.

"But surely this could have been done more sensitively. I'm not saying every space like this should be turned into a memorial but there has to be a level of respect."

The website for The Orphanage promises its would-be residents "spacious private suites in a welcoming home" and "beautiful shared spaces".

The "luxury co-living residence" is being marketed by letting agent Brady & McCarthy, with rents of between €1,200 and €1,500 per month.

Further efforts to contact the developer were unsuccessful last night.

Irish Independent

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