Survivor Consultations and Statements

Please contribute to our current online consultation. If you have already attended one of our zoom meetings, please fill in our survey (link below):

We are seeking input from survivors and other interested and affected people on the CoLab architects’ draft designs for the Sean McDermott Street site. These designs have been influenced by several consultation meetings carried out to date with survivors, others affected by historical ‘care’ arrangements, adoption and institutional abuse and local residents. We are eager to receive further comments and suggestions so that we can amend and improve the designs.

1. Sign up to attend an online consultation (which will take place via zoom) at 4pm on Friday 22 January 2021. The registration link is here.

2. Watch the recording of the CoLab architects’ most recent zoom presentation on the Open Heart City YouTube channel below.

3. Fill in our short survey here. Even if you have already attended a zoom consultation, please also fill in the survey so that we can record your views in more detail.

You can read more about our previous consultations and view a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers here.

CoLab 81-7 Consultation: A model for creating Sites of Conscience in Ireland

Recently on the 20th of November 2020, CoLab architects hosted a Zoom meeting to discuss proposed designs for a Site of Conscience at Seán McDermott Street, …

2020 -Towards an Independent National Archive for Historical Institutional and Care-related Records?

In January 2020, a coalition of 72 abuse survivors and individuals affected by adoption, along with academic and practising archivists, historians, psychologists, sociologists and lawyers, issued a public statement calling for the establishment of an Independent National Archive to hold and make available historical institutional and care-related records. You can read the coalition’s statement here.

The coalition of survivors and others suggests that an independent archive should provide at a minimum:

    • Access for institutional abuse survivors and those affected by adoption, including women whose children were unlawfully taken from them, to their own full personal files;
    • Access for family members of those who died while in custody or care to information about their relative’s fate and whereabouts;
    • An opportunity for survivors and others to deposit testimony and other information for public access now or in the future;
    • Public access to the (appropriately anonymised) administrative records of the systems of institutionalisation and adoption in 20thcentury Ireland, whether currently held by private or State bodies; and
    • The extra staffing, training and records management infrastructure (physical and digital) required at the appointed body in order to achieve the above.

2019 – Retention of Records Bill submissions

In February 2019, the Minister for Education published the Retention of Records Bill 2019, which seeks to seal for at least the next 75 years all records held in the archives of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee.

On 26 November 2019, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills heard powerful testimony from survivors of abuse in Ireland’s institutions, calling on the Government to withdraw the Bill and instead focus on ensuring access to personal data for survivors of abuse and also enabling survivors to contribute if they wish to the national historical record.

The Joint Committee also heard from experts in human rights, data protection law, history and archives. All were deeply concerned about the Retention of Records Bill 2019.

You can access the video of the Joint Committee hearing here. The written submissions to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills by several survivors, members of the group Transformative Justice Ireland and others, including Catríona Crowe, Former Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland, and Dr Fred Logue, solicitor specialising in data protection law, are available online here.

2019 – Department of Education-commissioned Pre-Consultation Report

In July 2019, the Department of Education published a Report by facilitators Barbara Walshe and Catherine O’Connell, entitled ‘Consultations with Survivors of Institutional Abuse on Themes and Issues to be addressed by a Survivor Led Consultation Group’. This was a scoping study on whether and how to conduct a comprehensive consultation process with survivors of abuse in industrial and reformatory schools.

The Report, which was based on discussions with over 100 survivors, highlighted a number of urgent concerns that people who were detained in industrial or reformatory schools as children have today. Survivors expressed a need for healthcare, housing, pensions, counselling and psychiatric services, education for their descendants, and other measures of acknowledgement and respect.

The Report states (among other things):

We also heard again and again about the importance of ‘voice’, ‘their voice’ in being heard and understood by ‘those in authority’ and the public. Being heard means being seen, acknowledged and needs being attended to. We heard that having a voice in the process and its outcome, needs to include a sense of procedural fairness and action.

The planned legislation which will see records from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and the Residential Institutions Redress Board put into the National Archives of Ireland and sealed for over 75 years was seen by some as a violation of their rights to their own stories, by others as excessive while a smaller number who spoke about it expressed relief.

Priority Issues for Survivors include:
    • An enhanced medical card (HAA Medical card) for all survivors regardless of whether they had gone through the Redress Board or not.
    • Consultation and support for/with survivors for either home or nursing home care
    • Prioritisation of housing needs for survivors
    • A contributory pension to be paid to all survivors
    • A designated drop-in centre or confidential space for survivors to meet, staffed by personnel that understand the nature and extent of their needs.
    • Funeral expenses to be covered.
    • Free unlimited counselling service for survivors as long as they want it.
    • Counselling and psychiatric services for children of survivors
    • Education supports for the children and grandchildren of survivors.
    • Remembering Survivors (Memorials etc.)
    • Survivors who didn’t receive redress to be included in all services provided
    • Tracing Service for individuals wishing to find their families and relatives.
    • Acknowledgment of the extra burden of racism experienced by some mixed-race survivors
    • Records and files to be made available to survivors
Social Supports and A Place to Meet each other

Both survivors and advocates stated that many survivors in both the UK and Ireland often live relatively isolated lives. They do not trust people easily and value face to face contact and a building of trust over time. A core wish of survivors is to have a place to meet each other. They said that they valued being able to meet each other in a safe and confidential environment and enjoyed ‘being with each other as for many of us, this is our family’.

Therefore, the provision of drop-in centres that are friendly, hospitable and well-run is vital for the positive mental health of survivors. Survivors and advocates say that these centres can double up as a signpost to other services like health, housing and other benefits. The withdrawal of funding from dedicated survivor networks in both Ireland and the UK has meant that it has become impossible to adequately maintain contact and support with survivors on a voluntary basis. Many reported survivors as ‘wandering through all kinds of services’ with a limited understanding of their needs by service providers.

When survivors spoke of help through advocacy, some names came up frequently throughout this scoping study. These people, we were told, went the extra mile with them, listened to them and helped them practically.

One survivor advocate spoke of the enormous value of funding inexpensive social events such as ‘lunch clubs’. Others spoke of classes in different hobby areas. What we noticed is that survivors who came to our meetings demonstrated great comfort and pleasure in each other’s company. The meeting of each other was the most beneficial part to them and the joy and comfort was palpable.

We were struck that in all the visits we did, only two groups had premises where people could meet and have a cup of tea. One centre had to move to much smaller premises because of rising rents and reduced funding. The other had a large drop-in centre in one location where people seemed to be very comfortable. However, Cork and Kerry based survivors we spoke to had no drop-in centre though there had been one in Cork and Tralee previously. Those we met there really mourned the loss of a place to meet each other and be together. Apart from the two mentioned, all our meetings had to be held in hotels.

Remembering and Honouring Survivors

Survivors said that any memorial to survivors of institutional abuse should be in a public centrally-based space in Dublin, which could be seen and visited easily by the public. Many survivors indicated that it should be a place of learning and information and should contain the records, photographs, books, films and documentaries for the families of future generations of survivors and for society. It should be a place for the study of institutions for all students

interested in this issue. It could also be a place where people could document their stories if they wished to do so.

One participant stated that the only memorial they were interested in was that ‘the 3,500 children who are currently in emergency accommodation today could be in their own homes”.

Another survivor said that for him, the only memorial should be ‘A National Day of Atonement’ where society takes back the shame that had been wrongly placed on the most vulnerable in our society – children with no power or voice.

Other survivors said that whatever living archive and place of learning is established that it should be about all survivors of institutional abuse, past and present to include the industrial schools, residential institutions, mother and baby homes and the Magdalene laundries.

Some survivors from the UK said they do not want a memorial. They said they want to look forward and a memorial is something the public wants but not them.

Campaigning and lobbying to provide such a place have recently come to fruition with the recent decision by Dublin City Council to designate a former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin as a ‘Site of Conscience’. This has been welcomed by many and is seen as a way that Irish society can pay homage and remember those who suffered, and never repeat the harm of the past.

Some survivors and survivor advocates thought that a similar model to that used with the native Canadians along with having a truth and reconciliation process would be another way of addressing the harm done to survivors.

2018 – Collaborative Forum for Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes and Related Institutions

In December 2018, a Collaborative Forum of Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes, established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs while the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters is ongoing, issued a Report recommending (among other things):

    • The creation of a new One-Stop-Shop to house records from across State, religious orders, county and other sources so as to enable access to identity, personal and institutional information by any person separated from their family of origin, or detained in State funded or regulated Institutions (para 1.2);
    • A National monument to commemorate, respect and honour mothers and children held in these Institutions (para 3.1) and Memorials to be erected at each Mother and Child and similar institutions (para 3.2);
    • A living memorial of Mother and Child Institutions. This could be in digital, audio or visual presentation of information and individual narratives (para 3.3);
    • Regulation of planning and development to protect institutional sites against interference pending surveys for burial places (para 3.5);
    • Archaeological surveys to ascertain location and scale of burials at institutional sites (para 3.6);
    • A research project to match records of deaths held by the General Register Office with contemporaneous records of those institutionalised (para 3.8); and
    • Inclusion of a module on Mother and Child institutions in the National History curriculum for schools and such material to be included across appropriate programmes in universities and third level colleges (para 3.9).

2018 – ‘Dublin Honours Magdalenes’ Listening Exercise

Dublin Honours Magdalenes was an historic two-day event held in June 2018, instigated by Justice for Magdalenes Research who worked with businesswoman, Norah Casey, as a lead organiser. The event fulfilled two key aspects of the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme: to bring together those women who wished to meet others who also spent time in the Magdalene Laundries, and to provide an opportunity for a listening exercise to gather views on how the Magdalene Laundries should be remembered by future generations. Read more about the event here and at the Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) website, here.

Central to the gathering was a Listening Exercise held in the Mansion House, which consisted of round-table group discussions with the 146 participants who took part in the event. Tables were mediated by 26 volunteer facilitators, who were assisted by 29 volunteer scribes. The Listening Exercise began by showing a video which detailed the current state of the Magdalene institutions and the ways in which artists, academics and activists have engaged with the issue and its on-going legacy.

The report of the Listening Exercise, authored by Katherine O’Donnell and Claire McGettrick, was published on the JFMR website on 25 June 2020. JFMR has requested that the Department of Justice send a hard copy of the report to all women who have participated in the Magdalene restorative justice scheme. The Department of Justice’s press release announcing publication of the report is here.

The Listening Exercise report deserves reading in full. It recounts the women’s views about:

  • What Irish society should know about the Magdalene Laundries,
  • What lessons should be learned from the experiences of girls and women who were detained in Magdalene Laundries, and
  • How the girls and women who suffered in Magdalene Laundries should be remembered.

Among the lessons to be learned, survivors stated that better supports must be provided to women and children, that we must find ways to listen to children and to ‘the unimportant people’, that Irish society must commit to looking behind ‘closed doors to ask vulnerable people how they are being treated’, and that they want reassurances that nothing like what happened to them will ever be allowed to recur.

As for how the women should be remembered, a strong and constant theme throughout the consultation was that there must be public education, and in particular the education of school children, to ensure that what happened to girls and women in Magdalene Laundries is never forgotten. The women who died behind Magdalene walls and who are buried in mass graves across the country were also repeatedly mentioned as a community that should never be forgotten. In addition, the vast majority of participants supported the creation of a prominent commemorative monument or space, or a commemorative day or event.

2013 – Report of the Magdalen Commission / ‘Quirke Report’

In May 2013, following the State apology to survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, Mr Justice John Quirke made recommendations to Government on the provision of an ex gratia ‘restorative justice’ scheme. The Quirke Report was made public and distributed to Magdalene survivors who had engaged with the process. In June 2013 the government agreed on the Dáil record to accept all of Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations ‘in full‘. The Quirke Report is based on conversations between the Commission and 337 women who had expressed an interest in the Magdalene ‘restorative justice’ scheme between March and May 2013.

Mr Justice Quirke’s 6th recommendation concerning memorialisation has not yet been implemented:


Payments to fund a “Dedicated Unit”

Many of the advocates and representative groups who spoke to the Commission on behalf of the Magdalen women emphasised the need to provide the women with ongoing support and assistance. They, and many of the women in conversation, also spoke of the wish of many women to meet and interact with one another.

Some representatives and advocates and some of the women expressed a wish to meet with members of the Religious Orders who were responsible for the management of the designated laundries.

Others recommended the establishment of a museum or archival centre or project to honour and commemorate the Magdalen women past and present. There appeared to be a consensus in favour of the creation and maintenance of a small memorial garden within the Sean Mc Dermott Street premises to honour and commemorate the women.

All of the above suggestions are consistent with the principles of restorative justice which have influenced and regulated the proposed Scheme.

I am therefore recommending that the State should establish, fund, staff and accommodate a small Dedicated Unit which should be charged to provide the following services for eligible Magdalen women:

    • A helpline accessible daily by the women to assist them to obtain the health, monetary and other benefits to which they will now be entitled
    • Investigative and other help and assistance in obtaining such sheltered or other housing as they may be entitled to.
    • Investigative and other help and assistance in obtaining such educational assistance as they may be entitled to.
    • Practical and, if necessary professional, assistance to enable those women who wish to do so to meet with those members of the Religious Orders who have similar wishes to meet and interact.
    • Similar practical assistance to meet and interact with other Magdalen women.
    • 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.

The Unit should be established after the Scheme’s administrator has first consulted with and received written submissions from an advisory body or committee which should be established by the administrator for that purpose and which should include at least 6 Magdalen women. That body or committee should additionally include at least 2 representatives of eligible women currently living within the UK or elsewhere.

A simple appeal process to a single agreed independent person should also be provided to resolve disagreement or dissatisfaction by the advisory body or committee with preliminary decisions made by the Scheme’s administrator in respect of the matters identified above.

Dublin Honours Magdalenes

Webpage Link: Page: Dublin Honours Magdalenes…

2013 – State apology to survivors of Magdalene Laundries

On 13 February 2013, Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a State apology to Magdalene survivors and announced that Judge John Quirke (President of the Law Reform Commission) would be tasked with developing recommendations for a restorative justice scheme. In his apology, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stated:

I am also conscious that many of the women I met last week want to see a permanent memorial established to remind us all of this dark part of our history. I agree that this should be done and intend to engage directly with the representative groups and of as many of the women as possible to agree on the creation of an appropriate memorial to be financed by the Government separately from the funds that are being set aside for the direct assistance for the women.

2009 – Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse / ‘Ryan Report’

In May 2009, Mr Justice Sean Ryan issued the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse following an almost 10-year investigation into the endemic abuse of children in industrial and reformatory schools during the 20th Century.

Based on the evidence provided to the Commission by survivors as well as others, the Commission was tasked with making a series of recommendations.

The Commission’s very first recommendations, designed ‘to alleviate or otherwise address the effects of the abuse on those who suffered’, were the following:

A memorial should be erected.

The following words of the special statement made by the Taoiseach in May 1999 should be inscribed on a memorial to victims of abuse in institutions as a permanent public acknowledgement of their experiences. It is important for the alleviation of the effects of childhood abuse that the State’s formal recognition of the abuse that occurred and the suffering of the victims should be preserved in a permanent place:

On behalf of the State and of all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and long overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse, for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue.

The lessons of the past should be learned.

For the State, it is important to admit that abuse of children occurred because of failures of systems and policy, of management and administration, as well as of senior personnel who were concerned with Industrial and Reformatory Schools. This admission is, however, the beginning of a process. Further steps require internal departmental analysis and understanding of how these failures came about so that steps can be taken to reduce the risk of repeating them.

The Congregations need to examine how their ideals became debased by systemic abuse. They must ask themselves how they came to tolerate breaches of their own rules and, when sexual and physical abuse was discovered, how they responded to it, and to those who perpetrated it. They must examine their attitude to neglect and emotional abuse and, more generally, how the interests of the institutions and the Congregations came to be placed ahead those of the children who were in their care.

An important aspect of this process of exploration, acceptance and understanding by the State and the Congregations is the acknowledgement of the fact that the system failed the children, not just that children were abused because occasional individual lapses occurred.

Counselling and educational services should be available.

Counselling and mental health services have a significant role in alleviating the effects of childhood abuse and its legacy on following generations. These services should continue to be provided to ex-residents and their families. Educational services to help alleviate the disadvantages experienced by children in care are also essential.

Family tracing services should be continued.

Family tracing services to assist individuals who were deprived of their family identities in the process of being placed in care should be continued. The right of access to personal documents and information must be recognised and afforded to ex-residents of institutions.

It was reported in 2018 that for many years the Department of Education has set aside a €500,000 capital allocation each year for the construction of a permanent memorial. However, no memorial has been established to date.