Historic gathering for Magdalene survivors

Some 220 Magdalene laundry survivors from as far away as Australia and the US are set to attend a historic two-day event next month to enable them to meet and talk to each other.

Ourtside a former Magdalene laundry on Sean McDermott St in Dublin.

According to event organisers, Dublin Honours Magdalenes (DHM), this will be the first time many of the women, most of whom are aged between their late 70s and early 90s, will be able to speak freely to other women incarcerated in the laundries.

For many of those travelling from abroad, this will be their first time to return home to Ireland since they left after their confinement in the Magdalene laundry.

The event will also fulfil two key aspects of the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme: to bring together those women who wish to meet others who also spent time in the Magdalene laundries; and to provide an opportunity for a listening exercise to gather views on how the Magdalene laundries should be remembered by future generations.

Among those attending the event are a group of women who were resident in training centres attached to or on the grounds of laundries. These women worked in the laundries as children but had been refused access to redress by the Department of Justice.

Following evidence revealed by the Irish Examiner and a subsequent investigation and scathing report by the Ombudsman, the Taoiseach confirmed in April that these women will now receive redress.

As well as being hosted by President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin on June 5, the survivors will also attend a gala dinner at The Mansion House in Dublin on the same evening.

They will be welcomed by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and the lord mayor of Dublin, Mícheál MacDonnchadh, while Christy Moore, Mary Byrne, Roisín O, Philomena Begley, The Three Tenors Ireland, Dana Rosemary Scallon, and actor Pauline McLynn will also be there.

The following night dancers from the iconic Riverdance will take to the stage of Citywest Hotel at a gala dinner hosted for the women.

A round-table conversation with the women will also be facilitated to ask them how they would like to be commemorated. The facilitated consultation will be carried out as part of the Irish Research Council / University College Dublin Magdalene Oral History Project.

Businesswoman, broadcaster and DHM ambassador Norah Casey said the “emotional gathering” is the result of many weeks of work in reaching out to survivors and organising their travel to Ireland. “Over the past several weeks we have spoken to hundreds of women who will attend the event. Each and every one has their own powerful story. What is especially poignant is the fact many will be returning to Ireland for the first time since they left after their Magdalene laundry experiences, so it will be a very emotional event for them.”

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