Mercy nuns asked to hand over property to City Hall in wake of Magdalene report

Give sale proceeds to Magdalene redress fund or build commemorative garden

The Sisters of Mercy should hand over property it owns on College Road to establish a commemorative garden for the women who endured time in the city’s Magdalene Laundry.

The city’s three Fianna Fáil councillors - Michael J Crowe, Ollie Crowe, and Peter Keane - are calling for lands in the order’s possession at the Magdalene Convent, which were adjacent to the former laundry property, to be donated to the Galway City Council.

The councillors want to see the gounds used for the creation of a Centre of Reflection and Commemorative Garden. The Sisters ran a Magdalene Laundry in Galway between 1922 and 1984.

The call comes following a recent national media campaign by the Sisters of Mercy, wherein lands it owns in the area have been offered for sale on the open market.

“The order should donate the entire proceeds of any such sale to the redress funds being considered by Government,” stated Cllr Michael J Crowe. “Alternatively the property should be handed over to the city council and be recast in an appropriate fashion to meet with the wishes of those who suffered so terribly in the laundry.”

Cllr Ollie Crowe said the development of a centre and garden would be “a small step, a memorial of the failings of the State, and a constant reminder to ensure we never forget the victims and never allow such tragedies to happen again”.

Galway reactions to the Taoiseach’s apology in the Dáil on Tuesday has largely been positive. Fine Gael Galway West TD Sean Kyne said he had “never witnessed such an emotional and momentous occasion” in the Dáil.

“The public gallery was packed with victims, their families, and supporters,” he said. “We in turn gave a standing ovation to them as they were the victims in all this. The Taoiseach did a wonderful job in expressing the sorrow of the State.”

However a spokesperson for the Justice For Magdalene’s group said none of the former residents of the Magdalene Laundry in Galway was willing to make a comment.

Although Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly welcomed by the apology, calling it “absolutely necessary” and “the first tentative step in the healing process”, she had a number of concerns, particularly about the operation of the redress fund.

She said the proposed fund will have to be “carefully examined” and described as “particularly worrying” the absence of the word compensation.

“Given what we now know about the operation of the Magdalene Laundries,” she said, “compensation must be an essential part of any package offered to residents.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Peter Keane shares these concerns, and argues that recompense must be considered.

“It is fair that a compensation package would be put in place as part of the process,” he said. “It is imperative any redress board set up to deal with the matter must act as expeditiously as possible and not get bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy. Time is of the essence for many sufferers who are now elderly.”

Cllr Connolly has also raised concerns regarding the Galway laundry. According to the McAleese Report, only partial records for Galway survive - including one soft-back notebook covering 1944 to 1959 but with November 1949 to June 1954 left blank. She said this will cause “difficulties”.

The report does say the Galway laundry had a capacity for 110 residents, but it is not possible to determine the overall number of entries from 1922 until its closure in 1984 due to the incomplete records.

“Placing the onus on former residents to furnish documentation confirming their stay at the Magdalene Laundry in Galway would be totally unacceptable given Martin McAleese’s failure to come up with same, notwithstanding his best efforts,” she said. “This problem will have to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

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