Dublin Honours Magdalenes (DHM) was an historic two-day event in Dublin from June 5th-6th. The event fulfilled two key aspects of the Irish State’s Magdalen Restorative Justice Ex-Gratia Scheme: to bring together those women seeking to meet others who also spent time in the Magdalene Laundries, and to provide an opportunity for a listening exercise to gather views from survivors on how the Magdalene Laundries should be remembered by future generations. DHM was voluntarily organised by Norah Casey, alongside Dr Katherine O’Donnell, Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Claire McGettrick of Justice for Magdalenes Research. The event was funded by the Department of Justice and Equality, with seed funding from the Central Area Committee of Dublin City Council. A list of other contributors is available at Appendix 5 of the Listening Exercise Report: Vol 1.
Five years earlier, in May 2013, Mr Justice John Quirke made recommendations to government on the provision of an ex gratia ‘restorative justice’ scheme for Magdalene survivors. The Magdalen Commission (Quirke) Report was distributed to Magdalene survivors who had engaged with the process. It was also published online. In June 2013 the government agreed on the Dáil record to accept all of Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations ‘in full’. Mr Justice Quirke’s sixth recommendation concerned the establishment of a Dedicated Unit, which would (amongst other things) facilitate the ‘acquisition, maintenance and administration of any garden, museum or other form of memorial which the Scheme’s administrator, after consultation with the advisory body or committee referred to below has decided to construct or establish’ (p. 12). Judge Quirke highlighted that any such memorial or archival centre or project should be overseen by an advisory board or committee that ‘should include at least 6 Magdalene women…[including] at least 2 representatives of eligible women currently living within the U.K. or elsewhere’ (p. 45).
On June 5th and 6th, 2018, over 230 women who survived the Magdalene Laundries gathered in Dublin to take part in DHM. From June 4th, survivors of the Magdalene Laundries began to arrive in Dublin from right across the island; others returned to Ireland from the UK, USA, and Australia, some for the first time. Many women were accompanied by relatives and companions, numbering an additional 200 participants.
On the afternoon of June 5th, survivors were welcomed to Áras an Uachtaráin, where President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins hosted an afternoon reception. During this reception, the President made a speech to the women and apologised to them on behalf of the State:
Ireland failed you…I want to acknowledge the wrong that has been done to you, the pain that has been caused in your lives and the opportunities that have been lost to you as a result of your mistreatment…as President of Ireland I apologise to you – survivors of the Magdalene regime.
On the evening of June 5th, the survivors attended a gala dinner hosted at The Mansion House by The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál MacDonncha. Survivors arrived by coach, and were greeted with an outpouring of support from members of the public who had lined Dawson Street. Media reports from the evening outline how ‘there was a warm reception at the banquet for the 230 women, who were cheered, applauded, hugged and called heroes by those present. Signs carried by the hundreds who gathered to support them at the Mansion House read ‘Welcome Home’, ‘The Women of Ireland Salute You’, ‘Mná Mná!’ ‘Welcome Home, Sisters’. As evidenced in the transcripts (available below) and the Listening Exercise Report: Vol 1, this welcome had a profound effect on the women. The gala dinner was hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál Mac Donncha, at the Mansion House with an address by both the Lord Mayor and the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, TD during which the Minister also apologised to survivors. A range of artists volunteered their time to provide entertainment at the gala dinner and the second night of dining and entertainment at Citywest Hotel. A full list of artists is available at Appendix 5 of the Listening Exercise Report: Vol 1.
On 6th June 2018, a formal ‘Listening Exercise’ took place in the Round Room of the Mansion House as part of DHM. The Listening Exercise consisted of round-table group discussions with 147 participants. Tables were mediated by 26 volunteer facilitators who were assisted by scribes who took notes and were responsible for the audio recordings (see Appendix 1 of the Listening Exercise Report: Vol 1 for list of facilitators, scribes and other volunteers).
The report of the Listening Exercise is set out in two volumes: Volume 1 contains the key findings from the exercise, and Volume 2 contains the transcripts.
Volume 2 will be available in the coming weeks.
Listening Exercise Report: Vol 1
Listening Exercise Report: Vol 1 (High Quality)
Listening Exercise transcripts were produced with part-financial support from the Department of Justice and Equality, which also funded the Dublin Honours Magdalenes event. We wish to acknowledge in particular the leadership and support of Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Charlie Flanagan, T.D.