Presentation of Spirit of Mother Jones 2022 to Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary, director of Cork Life Centre is presented with the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones award in an emotional ceremony during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

The award was presented by James Nolan and was followed by a sustained standing ovation from the large number of people present. 

Don O’Leary receives the award from James Nolan.

Don is the first Cork man to receive the award and he commented afterwards that it meant so much to him as Mother Jones was one of his heroes for seeking to prevent the exploitation of children in the mines and mills of America and ensure they received an education and also that he and the Cork Life Centre had been selected by the ordinary people of Cork. This represents the ultimate recognition for his efforts and the wonderful work of the staff and volunteers of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary and Rachel of the Cork Life Centre with the Cork Mother Jones Committee
Left to Right: Rachel Lucey, Don O’Leary and Sharon O’Neill of the Cork Life Centre.

The Spirit of Mother Jones citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre was read. 

For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.

For his practical approach to providing a structured base and a supportive network which has established an educational home for the young people to use their talents and visualize opportunities to fulfil their dreams in life and become productive members of society.

For his encouragement of young people to walk the road of life using their own unique abilities, independence of spirit, critical observation and an appreciation of their own self-worth.  

CORK MOTHER JONES COMMITTEE 2022
Don O’Leary being congratulated by Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.
Left to Right: Don O’Leary, James Nolan and Antoinette Keegan.

A Message from Charlie Bird to Antoinette Keegan for the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2020

Antoinette Keegan received the following goodwill message from Charlie Bird on the occasion of her visit to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022 in Cork.

Charlie Bird message to Antoinette Keegan (by permission of Antoinette).

The Award for 2020 which was to have been presented to Christine Keegan of the Stardust Justice Campaign  was presented to her daughter Antoinette  on Friday 29th July 2022 at the Firkin Crane, by James Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee..

James Nolan presents the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2020 to Antoinette Keegan.

Sadly Christine passed away in July 2020. Antoinette was accompanied by her sisters Lorraine and Suzanne and uncle Frank and Phyllis and Maurice McHugh who lost their only daughter Caroline in the Stardust Fire on Valentine Day 1981. 

Suzanne, Antoinette and Lorraine Keegan.

The Citation reads as follows:

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award is awarded this year to Ms. Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee for her determination, resilience and longstanding efforts to pursue truth, accountability and justice for the Stardust victims and their families over almost 40 years.   

Antoinette and her late mother Christine and father John have pursued answers to what happened at the Stardust fire on 14th February 1981, where 48 young people lost their lives, including Antoinette’s sisters Mary and Martina. 

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of her sisters, and the failure of the Public Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has continued to actively campaign to uncover the full truth of the events of that night. She is an inspiration to so many! 

For her bravery, courage and commitment, Antoinette Keegan is a very worthy recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

CORK mOTHER jONES committee for antoinette keegan.

Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre to receive the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre. This is the tenth annual award which the committee has made and Mr O’Leary is the first Cork man to receive it. The award will be presented later this week to Mr O’Leary at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Saturday 30th July at 1pm at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

Don O’Leary.

Jim Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated;

“We are really pleased to announce that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2022 has been awarded to Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre for his work and commitment to providing an alternative learning environment to many young people who are outside the mainstream education system.

Specifically Don has shown by his example and dedication to the young people how they can make progress within a different system which places them at the very core attempts to meet their unique needs and requirements.”

Cork Life Centre at Sunday’s Well.

The Committee’s citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre includes the following; 

‘For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.’

 

On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones, we congratulate Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre. 

They Never Came Home!

Antoinette Keegan will be formally presented by the Cork Mother Jones Committee with the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award on Friday 29th July at 3pm at the Dance Cork Firkin Crane theatre.

Antoinette and her late parents Christine and John along with other families and survivors have campaigned for justice and answers as to why 48 young people including Antoinette’s sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16),lost their lives at the Stardust Fire in the northside of Dublin on Valentine’s Day 14th February 1981. Over 200 people were treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the fire.

Christine and Antoinette Keegan (Sam Boal)

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of two of her sisters and the failure of the State Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has campaigned to uncover the full truth of the events of that night.  What caused this fire and who was responsible?

Her resilience and commitment to pursuing justice for the 48 children who never came home to their families remains an inspiration to many people. 

In 2019, the Attorney General approved the holding of new inquests to establish the full facts. After 41 years of the campaign for justice, the inquests should finally begin this year.

We wish to express our thanks to Antoinette and members of her family for coming to Cork and speaking about the long standing efforts of the survivors to seek the facts. 

All are welcome to the presentation and discussion. 

The Stardust Complex after the fire.

Honouring Their Fighting Spirit.

The decision by Cork City councillors on 15th March 2022 to rezone the Bessborough area marked Children’s Burial Ground to a landscape preservation zone, was as a result of the sustained campaign fought by members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) over many years. This zoning should help to enhance the protection afforded the burial grounds on the site of the former Bessborough Mother and Child Institution. The location of the remains of up to 859 babies who died is still uncertain. 

Following the successful appeal by the CSSA in 2021 to the An Bord Pleanala (the Irish Planning Board), which led to the refusal of planning permission for the construction of blocks of apartments on the site, this Cork City Council decision represented further vindication for the survivors of Bessborough Mother and Child institution in their efforts to protect this burial site. 

Members of the CSSA, who were present in the Council Chamber received a huge round of applause from Cork City councillors at the meeting.

Front Row L to R: Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman with the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2021, Maureen Considine.  Back Row: Maureen Sullivan, Mary Dunlevy, Phil Kinsella and Sheila O’Byrne of the CSSA outside Cork City Hall.

The CSSA was nominated to receive the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award for their outstanding efforts to protect the site. 

Earlier in the evening at City Hall the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award was presented personally to CSSA’s Ann O’Gorman by Gerard O’Mahony on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. 

Ann’s daughter Evelyn, born almost 50 years ago in Bessborough, was buried in an unmarked grave there.

Ann O’Gorman with the Spirit of Mother Jones Award

Ann was described by Maureen Considine of the CSSA as ” an amazing campaigner and an inspirational hero to all of us”. 

She has demanded for many decades that this site should be “marked, protected and blessed”.

This Cork City Council decision will  contribute to the preservation of the burial site and the realisation of Ann O’Gorman’s dream.

Spirit of Mother Jones Award Presented to the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance.

Congratulations to the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) on being the recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021.

CSSA members, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, and Maureen Considine, accompanied by Sheila O’Byrne, and Phil Kinsella received the award from James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee during the recent festival. The award itself is based on the story of the Children of Lir in Irish folklore.

From Left: Sheila O’Byrne, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Phil Kinsella, and Maureen Considine.

Catherine expressed her delight for the recognition and community support which this award represents and stated that the CSSA felt honoured to have been nominated to receive it as it meant so much to the group. 

The official citation from the Cork Mother Jones Committee is as follows. 

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 is presented to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance for:

·         Their bravery and determination to ensure that development does not take place on sensitive burial areas of the former Mother & Baby ‘Home’ at Bessborough in Cork.

·         Their efforts to organise a voice for the mothers of deceased children, and to publicly question where the remains of hundreds of babies are buried, and why the records of burials have not been produced to date.

·         Their work in locating the OSI 1950 Map which has a marked location of a Childrens’ Burial Ground in Bessborough clearly displayed.

·         Their resilience in defending and verifying the accuracy of this map at the oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala during April 2021 and for convincing the planning Board to reject the proposed development.

·         Their continuing campaign to seek the right with the common tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for access to the grounds and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough.

The members of the CSSA are the second Cork-based recipients of this International Award which is named in honour of Cork born Mary Harris known around the world as Mother Jones.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that the CSSA has accepted the 2021 award which indeed is an acknowledgement of our admiration for their determination to honour the dead, and continue to fight for the living.  

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) to receive the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to members of the campaigning group The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).

Members Maureen Considine, Ann O’Gorman and Catherine Coffey O’Brien have agreed to accept the award on behalf of the members of the Alliance. 

Maureen Considine and Catherine Coffey O’Brien of the CSSA in discussion.

Jim Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee declared;

“We are pleased to announce that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 has been awarded to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance who have campaigned for the proper memorialisation of the women and children who lie buried in the grounds of the former Mother and Babies Home at Bessborough in Cork City.

Specifically the CSSA by their determination and bravery prevented the recent plans to construct apartments on sensitive areas of the Bessborough grounds and through their efforts they discovered an Ordnance Survey Map from 1950 which clearly shows the marked Children’s Burial Ground.

In addition to their actions the members of the Alliance, their experts and their legal team won an oral planning hearing of An Bord Pleanala and convinced the planning inspector of the merits of their argument to protect the Children’s Burial Ground. 

Finally by their ongoing efforts and continuing campaign to seek the human right in accordance with common Irish tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for the right of access to those grounds and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough, they have displayed the courage of their convictions and are worthy of the Spirit of Mother Jones award for 2021.

We are indeed honoured to present the Spirit of Mother Jones award for 2021 to the representatives of the Alliance, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman and Maureen Considine.”  

The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (the CSSA) represents a group of survivors of Bessborough Mother and Baby ‘Home’.  The CSSA’s membership is largely composed of mother-survivors, whose babies’ died in the institution, and includes family members. Children and mothers who died in Bessborough are buried onsite and in various public burial places such as St. Joseph’s cemetery (Ballyphehane) and All Saints cemetery (Carr’s Hill), with just a handful of the total burials marked.

Following proposals for development on the grounds of Bessborough towards the end of 2020, the CSSA opposed the plans citing the newly discovered evidence for the location of a large Childrens’ Burial Ground on the Bessborough estate. The Commission of Investigation into the Mothers and Baby ‘Homes’ stated that it is “highly likely” that burials took place in the grounds.

Using the 1950 Ordnance Survey original map drawing, which clearly shows “Childrens’ Burial Ground” marked on the grounds of the former Bessborough lands, the CSSA’s legal team convinced An Bord Pleanala to refuse permission for the development on the grounds that it would be “premature to grant permission for the proposed development prior to establishing whether there is a children’s burial ground located within the site and the extent of any such burial ground.” This has now created some space to ensure the proper memorialisation of the women and children who are “highly likely” to lie buried in the grounds.

OSI 1950 Bessborough

The full citation reads as follows.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 is presented to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance for:

Their bravery and determination to ensure that development does not take place on sensitive burial areas of the former Mother & Baby ‘Home’ at Bessborough in Cork. 

Their efforts to organise a voice for the mothers of deceased children, and to publicly question where the remains of hundreds of babies are buried, and why the records of burials have not been produced to date.

Their work in locating the OSI 1950 Map which has a marked location of a Childrens’ Burial Ground clearly displayed. 

Their resilience in defending and verifying the accuracy of this map at the oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala during April 2021 and for convincing the planning Board to reject the proposed development.

Their continuing campaign to seek the right with the common tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for access to the same and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough. 

The members of the CSSA are the second Cork-based recipients of this International Award which is named in honour of Cork born Mary Harris known around the world as Mother Jones. The award will be presented this week to Catherine, Ann and Maureen at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

A discussion about the role of the CSSA and its contribution to the oral planning hearing will be shown on Saturday 27th November at 7:00 pm on Cork Community Television as part of the online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 21. Further details at www.motherjonescork.com

The Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date;

  • 2013,     Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group).
  • 2014,     Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.
  • 2015      Fr Peter McVerry. 
  • 2016      Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.
  • 2017      Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation). 
  • 2018      Mary Manning (on behalf of the Dunnes Stores workers).
  • 2019      Louise O’Keeffe.
  • 2020      Antoinette Keegan.
  • 2021     Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman & Maureen Considine (for Cork Survivors & Supporters Alliance).

Antoinette Keegan is the Spirit of Mother Jones Award recipient for 2020.

The late Christine Keegan and her daughter Antoinette. Photo courtesy of Sam Boal


The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee.

Antoinette and her mother Christine Keegan were due to speak in Cork at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Summer school. Sadly, Christine passed away in July after a lifetime of fighting for justice for the Stardust victims.

The Keegan family have been central to the efforts for the past 40 years to investigate the causes of the fire. The recent announcement of a new inquest into the victims of the Stardust Fire is testament to the determination of Antoinette and her family and the Stardust Victims committee to pursue the truth of the night of the 13/14th February in 1981. 

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award is awarded this year to Ms. Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee for her determination, resilience and longstanding efforts to pursue truth, accountability and justice for the Stardust victims and their families over almost 40 years.  

Antoinette and her late mother Christine and father John have pursued answers to what happened at the Stardust fire on 14th February 1981, where 48 young people lost their lives, including Antoinette’s sisters Mary and Martina.

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of her sisters, and the failure of the Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has continued to actively campaign to uncover the full truth of the events of that night. She is an inspiration to so many!

For her bravery, courage and commitment, Antoinette Keegan is a very worthy recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee

The award has been presented each year since 2013 by this committee to the person we feel most represents the fighting spirit of Mother Jones, who was born Mary Harris here in Cork in July 1837 and went on to become known throughout the world as Mother Jones. She fought for the rights of workers and the trade union movement and was involved in numerous campaigns

We will arrange to present the award representing The Children of Lir to Antoinette as soon as it becomes safe to do so in view of the current Covid-19 situation. It is hoped Antoinette will be able to come to Cork to speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school in 2021. 

For details of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which will take place online between the 27th and the 30th Novembersee www.motherjonescork.com. The full programme of events will appear this coming weekend.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/stardust-campaigner-honoured-with-the-spirit-of-mother-jones-award-1.4412466?mode=amp

Previous recipients of this award have been

2013, Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

2014, Gareth Peirce, Solicitor

2015 Fr. Peter McVerry.

2016 Dave Hopper, RIP Durham Miners’ Association

2017 Ken Fleming, International Transport Workers Federation

2018 Mary Manning, (Dunnes Stores Workers)

2019 Louise O’Keeffe.

2020 Antoinette Keegan.

Presentation of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award to Louise O’Keeffe

Photos of the presentation of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2019 to Louise O’Keeffe.  Photos courtesy of ProVision.


See citation for the award,

 

Louise O’Keeffe receiving the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones award from James Nolan on behalf of the Mother Jones Committee. Also in photo is Lord Mayor John Sheehan and the Lady Mayoress along with the members of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.  Photo courtesy of ProVision.

Breaking News: 2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award for Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers.

2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award for Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers.

  • Mary Manning presentation with James Nolan
  • Mary Manning
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Dunnes Strike

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones Award has been awarded to Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers.

On July 19th 1984, Mary, while working on the cash registers at the Dunnes Stores branch on Henry Street in Dublin refused to register the sale of two grapefruit for a customer in accordance with the stated policy of her trade union (IDATU…..now Mandate Trade Union).

Mary was immediately suspended by the Dunnes Stores management, and thus a simple action initiated the strike…..eight women and one man joined Mary on the picket lines, and the strike continued for 2 years and nine months. Their actions on that day led eventually to world-wide interest and forced a change in Irish Government policy.

According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee,

which presents this annual award

 

“Mary Manning and her colleagues were willing to act in accordance with the stated policy of their trade union motions and do what was right to make a determined stand to raise awareness of the brutal apartheid regime which existed in South Africa. Mary’s stand on that day in July 1984 triggered the subsequent events.

In spite of all obstacles and harassment and silence from those who should have supported them, these workers refused to be silenced and bravely stood up for the human rights of South Africans who were suffering under the apartheid regime.”

“At extraordinary personal cost, Mary Manning and her colleagues walked the picket lines month after month for over 30 months. Their actions resonated around the world and gave inspiration and hope to the oppressed people suffering under the apartheid regime.”

“None other than the future President of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela himself who was in prison at the time, has stated that the Dunnes Stores Strikers gave him   great hope and inspiration. Their actions forced the Irish Government to eventually ban the import of South African products to Ireland and triggered the wider boycott of these products elsewhere. Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers are worthy recipients of the 2018 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

Mary Manning is a native of Dublin. She emigrated to Australia for a number of years following the ending of the strike in 1987. Mary has two daughters Siobhan and Niamh and lives with her partner Dave in Dublin. She is the author with Sinead O’Brien of the recent book Striking Back – The Untold Story of an Anti-Apartheid Striker, published by Collins Press

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that Mary has come to speak at the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School and has accepted this award on behalf of herself and her brave colleagues. The award is presented annually to people who act and work in the spirit of Mother Jones and Mary Manning and her colleagues join a worthy list of past recipients.

The 2018 Award will be presented to Ms. Manning by Mr. James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee on Friday evening August 3rd at the Firkin Crane Theatre, in the Shandon Historic Quarter in Cork.

The Dunnes Stores Strikers:

Mary Manning, Cathyrn O’Reilly, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Malone, Karen Gearon, Tommy Davis, Michelle Glavin and Liz Deasy,

Note:

The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been,

2013,     Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group)

2014,    Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.

2015      Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.

2016     Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.

2017     Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation.)                  .

For further details contact

Ger O’Mahony 0863196063

James Nolan 0861651356

Ann Piggott 087 9031282

Date: Friday 3rd August 2018.