Sunday, May 12, 2024

Protest over proposed memorial site for institutional abuse survivors

Dublin's last Magdalene Laundry to be turned into 'site of national  conscience'

A protest has been held at the proposed memorial site for institutional abuse survivors at the former Magdelene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin.

It marks 25 years since then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern issued an unreserved apology on behalf of the State to victims of child abuse.

Community Survivors Unite at Last (CSUL), which has organised the protest, represents people who spent time in institutions, including Mother and Baby and County Institutions, industrial institutions, mental institutions, adoptees, those who were boarded out, fostered, blind, deaf, disabled and those of mixed race.

The Government approved the "site of conscience" to "honour" those who were residents in industrial schools, Magdalen Laundries, Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions, reformatories and related institutions.

However, CSUL say the site is not a "true reflection" of those it claims to represent.

The national centre is expected to include personal testimonies of survivors; enabling their lived experiences to be part of the official record.

However, protesters say the demolition of dormitories and the removal of industrial machinery has already wiped evidence of the lives of those who spent time in the institution.

Twenty-five years on from the State apology, survivors say the Government has failed to listen to them and that this is borne out of a bill currently going through the Oireachtas to provide supports for survivors of residential institutional abuse.

Following a consultative forum, just four out of almost 30 recommendations were taken up by the Department of Education.

Part of what is on offer by the department is an education grant.

CSUL spokesperson Tracey Geary pointed out that the education grant is not of much use to survivors when their average age is 84.

It has been suggested that it be made available to extended family members like children and grandchildren to acknowledge intergenerational trauma.

There has also been much criticism over a proposal to give a €3,000 once-off payment to survivors living abroad, which has been described by CSUL as "paltry".

The community is calling for a full State contributory pension to be given to survivors, some of whom are living in poverty.

CSUL has said the people it represents do not want to be a burden on Irish taxpayers however, it has also pointed out that it does not want taxpayers to pay for a memorial which they do not support with and is going to cost millions.

Instead, the community wants full redress in line with the wishes of survivors.

It has also called for plaques to be erected at all institutions with apologies from the State and the religious orders, as well as the names, birth and death dates of those who died at the sites.