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Mayor of South Dublin meets Magdalene Laundry and Mother and Baby Home Survivors

5 November, 2015 - by Sarah Holland

Mayor of South Dublin County Council Sarah Holland met yesterday with survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes.

The meeting was arranged by Independent Cllr Francis Timmons, who is himself a survivor of the homes.

Cllr Timmons had a motion at last month’s full council meeting in which he outlined his story and the affect it had on his life, and the motion was seconded by Cllr Paul Gogarty, who is also a survivor.

Cllr Holland said

“The women and children who went through this barbaric system always had my full support, but nothing can prepare you for listening to the haunting stories face to face.

The full horror of what was done to these women was brought home to me.

I heard stories of forced sterilisations, children being trafficked out of the country, women shamed, beaten and ostracised and all for the beautiful gift of being able to create life.

This was institutionalised misogyny, and was funded by taxpayer’s money and enabled and facilitated by Church and State.”

The last Magdalene Laundry closed here in 1996, and a public investigation was started this year following the discovery of the remains of over 800 dead babies at Tuam.

However, the survivors have grave concerns about the terms of reference of the inquiry, and one survivor, Paul Redmond, has said that the inquiry cannot be fully functional until the remit is broadened to include all victims of forced mother & baby separation.

He said

“Forced separation did not just go on in the mother & baby homes – it was common practice in our maternity hospitals to isolate single mothers and remove their children, right up until the 70s.

We need full disclosure and acknowledgement of what went on here.”

He went on to say

“We want an immediate acknowledgement from the Church and state that these women did nothing wrong.  Some women are in their 80s and are still afraid to look for their children or admit what happened to them because of the shame and fear the religious orders instilled into them.

We are calling for a fast tracking for the older women, before their horrific experiences are buried with them, as has already happened to so many survivors”

The group also outlined to Cllr Holland that, unbelievably, there is no lift or disability access in the building in which the hearings are held.

One survivor, a woman who was abducted and placed in a Magdalene Laundry before having her son taken from her Terri Harrison said

“The women who were imprisoned in these homes were shamed and isolated.  We went through hell, and now some of our oldest survivors are being excluded from the hearing because of access issues.”

 A qualified counsellor, Terri also said

“It is also unbelievable that there is no counsellor or emotional support of any kind in place for the women who have to face a panel of strangers and tell their horrific stories.

They are effectively being re-traumatised and I would strongly recommend that a victim’s advocate is put in place to support anyone, both before and after their hearings.”

Also present at the meeting was long-time activist and survivor David Kinsella, who said

“I want the Catholic Church to come forward, like they have done in Scotland already, and give a full apology and acknowledgement.  I want them to announce from the pulpits that women like my mother did nothing wrong and to encourage women to come forward and engage with the inquiry.

I also want an interim redress scheme put in place – many survivors are passing away having lived their whole lives believing they were the ones who had done something wrong.

We need strong words from the state and the church and we won’t stop until we get an acknowledgement of this hurt.”

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