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Appeal to fund hotel stays for large-scale gathering of Magdalene survivors

Justice for Magdalenes Research is calling on the government to help organise the event.

Flowers hang on the gates of the site of the former Magdalene Laundry in Donnybrook.
Flowers hang on the gates of the site of the former Magdalene Laundry in Donnybrook.
Image: Sam Boal

A CAMPAIGN GROUP set up to support survivors of the Magdalene Laundries is appealing for help funding a two-day event in Dublin later this year.

Justice for Magdalenes Research plans to bring together around 200 women who spent time in the laundries at the Mansion House on 5 and 6 June this year.

The group is also calling on the government to help bring the survivors together.

“The Department of Justice is the only organisation which has the details of the women, but to date they have ignored our pleas to help bring them together by contacting them on our behalf,” Katherine O’Donnell of JFMR said

“Time is of the essence here as these women are getting older.

“In his redress report in 2013 Mr Justice Quirke recommended that a gathering takes place before more of the women die.

We are simply asking the Department, which holds all of the contact details, to invite them on our behalf.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Míchéal MacDonncha, a Sinn Féin councillor, announced at a meeting of Dublin City Council last night that he would hold the event for the women at the Mansion House.

The Council’s Central Area Committee has agreed to contribute towards the cost of the two-day event.

JFMR said the women would discuss how they’d like their experiences are to be officially remembered at the two-day event.

“These women don’t have any more time to wait,” Maeve O’Rourke of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) said.

“One of the reasons for this important gathering in June is for the women to start a conversation on memorialising what was a dark chapter in Irish history and in their lives.

“In his State apology to the women in 2013, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised that the government would establish a memorial following discussions with the women, but this hasn’t happened yet five years later.”

Businesswoman Norah Casey, who is an ambassador for the event, said it now needed lots of further support.

“In practical terms we need to fund two nights for the estimated 200 women who will attend,” Casey said.

That involves hotel accommodation, a dinner with entertainment on the night of 5 June, and time and space for the women to talk and discuss how they would like to be commemorated on the sixth.

Minister Flanagan has not yet received any proposal from ‘Justice for Magdalenes’ or Dublin City Council with regard to the proposed conference but when he does he will be happy to consider the request in detail.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said:

With regard to a memorial for Magdalene women, the Department has been in discussions with Dublin City Council officials on this issue and has offered assistance if requested.
This is in the context of a major commercial development on Sean McDermott Street, announced by DCC in December 2017, that had formerly been the site of a Magdalen institution.
Specifics on these development plans are a matter for DCC but the Department has offered assistance if required. The primary focus of the Department remains on the payment to applicants under the Magdalene ex-gratia scheme.
The scheme remains open and 12 applications were received in 2017. To date, 686 applicants have been paid a total of €25.7m and a further €258,000 in legal costs has been paid out.

Read: Magdalene memorial: ‘I grew up in the shadow of that laundry’ >

Read: UN criticises government for failure to prosecute abuse perpetrators in Magdalene Laundries >

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