Hundreds of Magdalene Laundry survivors to meet in Ireland for first time

Survivors from Ireland, the UK, America and Australia are coming together in Dublin.

Hundreds of Magdalene Laundry survivors to meet in Ireland for first time

The site of the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin | Image: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

Over 200 survivors of the Magdalene Laundries will gather in the same place for the first time ever today.

The two day event will see survivors from Ireland, the UK, America and Australia coming together in Dublin.

The President will also host a special reception for the women at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The gathering will allow survivors to share their experiences – and will allow the women to express their thoughts on how the Magdalene Laundries should be remembered by future generations.

Many of those in attendance will be coming home to Ireland for the first time since they left the country after their confinement in the Magdalene Laundry.

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said it is an important event that will be tinged with sadness:

“This is a really moving event,” he said.

“Many of these women are in their 80s; many of them don’t know each other and of course the inhumane conditions under which they were working is really underlined by the fact that their dignity was taken.”

“Many of them, their children were taken; they were given names that were not their own – their identities were taken.

“So this will be a chance for me as Minister for Justice – and others – to listen to them and their stories.”

"Nightmares"

Josie Keane is one of over 200 survivors who have gathered together in Dublin.

She said it is important that the people of Ireland remember what she has been through.

The Cork native said she still has nightmares about what she went through:

"For years no-one knew what was going on with any of us inside those closed doors," she said.

"I was 15 when I went in there and it tore me apart.

"I have nightmares and everything since the day I left. I am always thinking I am back there again."

McAleese Report

The 2013 McAleese Report found that the State was directly involved in the confinement and forced labour of well over 10,000 girls and women in Magdalene Laundries.

The State funded and held laundry service contracts a referred around a quarter of the women to the institutions.

The gathering is organised by the voluntary group, Dublin Honours Magdalenes (DHM).

Powerful stories

Group spokesperson Norah Casey said the gathering is the result of many weeks work reaching out to survivors around the world.

“Over the past several weeks we have spoken to hundreds of women who will attend the event,” she said.

“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.

“As the majority of the women are now elderly many will be accompanied by carers or family members.

“This is an important step towards reparation for women, many who will be sharing their stories for the first time with other survivors.”

The event will see musicians including Christy Moore, Mary Byrne, Róisín O and Philomena Begley performing.

The Hot House Flowers will also be performing at Áras an Uachtaráin this evening, while the dancers from Riverdance will take to the stage at the Citywest Hotel tomorrow.