Crowds lay flowers at the graves of more than 1,663 former Magdalene women for Mother's Day
The grandson of Magdalene laundries survivor Martina Keogh sprinkled her ashes on five grave sites scattered around Glasnevin Cemetery where the bodies of hundreds of fellow survivors are buried as a poignant reminder of the brave woman who endured years of abuse as a virtual slave of the Sean McDermott Street laundry in Dublin.
Frankie Tate, (29) and his daughter Poppy Bella (6), were among hundreds of family, friends and supporters of the thousands of young women and girls who died in the notorious workhouses for “fallen women” who paid tribute to the Magdalene women across Ireland yesterday.
For the firth consecutive Mother’s Day, they laid flowers at the graves – many of them unmarked – of more than 1,663 former Magdalene women as a mark of the respect and dignity they were denied in life as inmates of the Catholic Church-run laundries.
For Mr Tate, scattering the ashes of his beloved gran who died last year of cancer at just 65, was a way of remembering all that she endured as well as honouring her memory as a strong and resilient woman who survived hell.
“I know she would have loved to be here herself, it’s just a small little touch, just for her,” he told independent.ie
Renowned Donegal artist Kevin Sharkey was also among the throng that paid their respects to the hundreds of Magdalene women buried at Glasnevin cemetery, while similar ceremonies took place in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford.
He was adopted as a young child but later learned that he had been taken from his birth mother and adopted out without her consent after falling pregnant with an “illegitimate” child while a young woman.
“I never saw her for 36 years and when I did see her, the stories she told me about her experiences as a single girl who got into trouble and the effect that had on her liberty and how she was treated, not just by the religious, but by people in general in 1961. It’s very sad,” he said.
“I put it in my diary to come this year just for support. Personally, I don’t think anything short of a criminal investigation with prosecutions is ever going to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Despite the formal apology that Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued on behalf of the State to the victims of the laundries three years ago, and a subsequent compensation scheme established, Justice for Magdalenes Research, (JFMR) which organised the annual Flowers for Magdalenes ceremony, says the bare minimum has been done by the church and State to restore their dignity.
Institutional abuse in State-run facilities is still going on, said JFMR spokeswoman Claire McGettrick.
“It is happening in places like Áras Attracta,” she said of the State-run special needs home in Co Mayo in which five staff were recently convicted of assaulting intellectually-impaired residents following an undercover expose by RTE’s Prime Time.
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald paid tribute to the resilience of the women who were incarcerated in the Magdalene laundries and highlighted the insufficiency of the McAleese Report in bringing the full truth of the travesty to light.
“We mark as a matter of the respect the passing of the women incarcerated in the Magdalene laundries who are buried here. We have seen a triumph of human courage, of dignity of women who were disrespected in such a base, relentless and vicious way,” she said in Glasnevin cemetery today.
“We have met over the course of years the consequences of the hardship, of the abuse, of the neglect of these women, all of which was overseen by the state. The buck stops with the state.
“There is an issue around the McAleese Report, around the Commission of Investigation, around the story that has not yet been told. We are still waiting to hear the full story of the Magdalene laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes north and south, east and west. There is a lot of work that needs to be done.
“We have to reconcile and confront the realities of what the state did. But the instincts of the state is to play down the significance of what happened. That’s not good enough. What we need is the truth.”