Magdalene women deserve Civic apology

Author Patrica Burke Brogan attending Sunday's gathering at The Magdalene Women Memorial, Forster Street.		                  Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Author Patrica Burke Brogan attending Sunday's gathering at The Magdalene Women Memorial, Forster Street. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Any service of remembrance for the women who died while in the former Magdalene Laundry in the city must include a civic service and an apology by the Mayor on behalf of Galway citizens.

This is the view of Labour councillor Billy Cameron, who was reacting to news that the Sisters of Mercy, who ran the Galway Magdalene Laundry between 1920 and 1984, have proposed to organise a service of remembrance for the Magdalene women.

Following publication of the McAleese report, the issue and legacy of the Magdalene laundries has caused widespread public debate. Last week, Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly raised the issue of Magdalene women buried in a large grave in Bohermore Cemetery with a headstone that did not bear any of their names.

This was followed up by Cllr Cameron as a question to be discussed at Monday’s forthcoming city council meeting. As a result, the council’s director of services Ciarán Hayes met with the Sisters of Mercy regarding this issue.

In a letter to councillors, Mr Hayes said some Magdalene women were buried in Bohermore Cemetery, the earliest burial taking place in 1924. Despite there being no names on the headstone, the names are recorded in a graveyard on the order’s convent grounds on College Road while City Hall has records in respect of each woman, including her name, date of burial, and plot number.

During its meeting with Mr Hayes, the Sisters of Mercy proposed the erection of headstones at Bohermore Cemetery with the names of the Magdalene women buried there, along with a service of remembrance to be organised by the order.

Mr Hayes also met James Smith of the Justice For Magdalenes group, the Mayor of Galway Terry O’Flaherty, and a number of city councillors.

In his letter, Mr Hayes noted that a “consistent theme” throughout the consultations was “the sensitivity of the issue”.

“At one level, apologies and compensation was demanded, while at the other, families of some of the women requested anonymity,” he said, adding that in all public debate on the issue, that the “wishes of the families” be respected.

In response to the letter, Cllr Cameron said he is “satisfied with the response” but asked that any service to be organised “should include a civic service with an apology by the Mayor of the City on behalf of its citizens”.

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