Friday 19 April 2019

Magdalene supporters brave elements for memorial event

Supporters laying flowers at the grave
Supporters laying flowers at the grave

David Looby

The sixth annual Flowers for Magdalene's memorial took place in St. Stephen's cemetery, New Ross, with crowds attending despite the heavy downpours.

People from across the county turned out to lay flowers and pay homage to women who lived, worked and died behind the walls of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry across the road from the cemetery in Irishtown, New Ross.

The memorial marked International Women's Day and was one of the national events held across the country at Magdalene locations.

The ceremony which attempts to write Ireland's once anonymous women into history began with a flag ceremony. Michael Fottrell raised the tricolour and Maureen Sullivan, who was incarcerated in the New Ross laundry, raised the Magdalene Flag of Flowers which was created and designed by the event organiser, artist Nancy Rochford Flynn.

Nancy said: 'This gesture attempts to place Ireland's once anonymous daughters back within their rightful position in society. Des Callaghan piped a musical tribute to accompany this. Wexford County Council has granted special permission to allow the Magdalene Flag to remain in situ for the coming week.'

Nancy spoke about the importance of Active Commemoration as a means of Countering Cultural Forms of Forgetfulness. She read aloud parts of the apology delivered to the Magdalene Survivors by President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin during last June's 'Dublin Honours Magdalenes' event which she said she was privileged to have been invited to.

The President said: 'Ireland failed you. When you were vulnerable and in need of the support of Irish society and its institutions, its authorities did not cherish you, protect you, respect your dignity or meet your needs and so many in the wider society colluded with their silence'.

Margaret Rossiter then recited the names of the 63 women buried in the mass grave at St. Stephen's, accompanied by sisters Meadhbh and Eimear Flynn who placed a flower for each women buried. The girls were assisted by Carmel Furlong. This was followed by readings from Ann Walsh and Annette Stacey Ellis. Des Callaghan performed a fitting musical tribute to conclude the ceremony.

'The floral tribute which remains in the cemetery provides a visual representation that the secrecy behind the lives of the Magdalene women no longer exists. A special word of gratitude is extended to all in attendance and to the local businesses that very generously sponsored the event,' Nancy said.

New Ross Standard