The Story of the Magdalenes

On Wednesday afternoon 30th July, at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,  Claire McGettrick, co-founder of Justice for Magdalenes (now JFM Research) will speak at the Firkin Crane in Shandon, Cork,  about the story of the Magdalenes.

Claire is an activist, researcher and also co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance.

She worked as Research Assistant on the project Magdalene Institutions: Recording an Archival and Oral History, which collected the oral histories of 79 interviewees, including 35 Magdalene survivors. The Magdalene Names Project, which is central to Claire’s work with JFM Research, makes use of historical archives to develop a partial, repaired narrative of the lives of some of the women who died behind convent walls, with the aim of creating a lasting memorial to these women.

Claire McGettrick

Claire McGettrick

Origins and growth of the Magdalenes.

The Magdalene system of sending young women into institutional homes developed from the appalling poverty, disease, prostitution and poor conditions which existed in Ireland in the early 19th Century. Later the effects of the Famine consigned thousands of women to a life of desperation on the streets with little hope of income or shelter. It was the era of Workhouses, Lock hospitals and Asylums.

Cork with a population of about 80,000 had a particular high level of poor housing and bad sanitary conditions throughout the City. In 1809 a Catholic Magdalen Asylum was established in Peacock Lane, Blackpool by a Mr Terry. Later, the Irish Sisters of Charity were asked to take over the running of the Asylum and following the completion of the St. Vincent’s Convent on the grounds, the Order took over the Asylum in 1846. In 1810 another Refuge was founded on the South Terrace by Protestants, which took in women mainly from prison.

In July 1872 the Good Shepherd Nuns opened a Magdalen Asylum at Sunday’s Well in Cork, which was followed in 1873 by the opening of the Convent and later still by an Industrial School. The original aim of the Magdalene Asylums was to provide training and shelter for prostitutes anxious to reform however this rehabilitation gradually became a punitive based system, particularly after the foundation of the Irish State.  The regime involved harsh working conditions for no pay, where the women and girls were incarcerated against their will, not knowing if they would ever be released.

The concept that these women were to do lengthy penance for their sins became deeply ingrained in the reasoning behind their removal to the Magdalene Institutions. Some escaped, some were released to family members, while over 1,000 died behind convent walls, never seeing freedom.    And, a significant number remained within the institutions, dependent on the religious orders for the rest of their lives.

The Magdalene Institutions remained attached to the local religious convents which ran their day to day activities. These institutions established laundries which using the readily available and cheap labour became important sources of income for the religious orders. Thousands of women and girls worked in the Magdalene Laundries, as more and more “fallen”, destitute or perceived troublesome women were incarcerated. In reality, most were frightened young girls, often transferred from the industrial school system.

Forgotten by society and abandoned by their own families, these women and girls remained captive behind the high walls, invisible to society and ignored by successive governments.

 

In 1993, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge decided to sell some of their land at High Park, Drumcondra and applied to the Department of the Environment for the exhumation of 133 women. The exhumation order was granted by the Department on 25th May 1993. When the undertakers were carrying out the task of exhuming the bodies on 23rd August 1993, an additional 22 remains were discovered. The Department of the Environment then supplied an additional exhumation order to allow the removal of “all human remains” at the relevant site.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge told the Department of the Environment that they could not produce death certificates for 24 women on the exhumation order who appear under fictitious names. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge also told the Department that they could not produce death certificates for a further 34 women on the exhumation order. The remains of 154 out of 155 of the women were then cremated and reinterred at Glasnevin Cemetery. Questions about the circumstances of these women and their exhumation remain unanswered.

Inaccessible Magdalene burial plot, Sunday's Well Cork.   Plaque beneath broken cross reads: "A memorial to the Residents of St. Mary's Good Shepherd Convent, Sunday's Well. 1873-1993"

Inaccessible Magdalene burial plot, Sunday’s Well Cork. Plaque beneath broken cross reads: “A memorial to the Residents of St. Mary’s Good Shepherd Convent,
Sunday’s Well 1873-1993″

 

Growing questions.

Do Penance or Perish, A Study of Magdalen Asylums in Ireland, by Francis Finnegan published in 2001 traced the development of the Magdalene movement and provided the 19th century history of four of Ireland’s Convent Magdalen Asylums.  More and more voices were being raised questioning the stillness of the injustice. In addition to some early articles, a Channel Four Television production Sex in a Cold Climate released in 1998 broadcast the distressing accounts of the system by former inmates of the Irish Magdalene system.

This was followed in by the 2002 film by Peter Mullan called the Magdalene Sisters.  Survivor advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes was founded in 2003, asking questions about the circumstances surrounding the High Park exhumations. In 2007 Prof James M Smith’s (Boston College/JFM Research) Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment charted the 20th century Magdalene regime, offering the first crucial evidence of State involvement in the laundries. Steven O’Riordan’s film “The Forgotten Maggies” appeared in 2009. Some fearless articles by the late Mary Raftery in the Irish Times also added to the growing disquiet around these institutions.

The last Magdalene Laundry, located at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, closed in 1996. Many convents also declined and due to the lack of entrants closed. The laundries, no longer useful or profitable could not compete with huge national and multinational industrial operations and with the advent and widespread use of washing machines, they fell into disrepair.

Increased media exposure and the growing strength of survivor advocacy groups such as the Justice for Magdalenes group, (JFM) which began its political campaign in 2009, saw a growing clamour for the establishment of a Compensation Scheme for all Magdalene survivors as well as an official apology from the Irish State. The official apology on the 19th February 2013 by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the Magdalene survivors marked an important milestone in the campaign as the women were finally vindicated. While the Taoiseach described the “Nation’s Shame”, neither Church nor State will acknowledge the human rights violations which have taken place, although the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the Vatican to conduct an enquiry.

What remains is to ensure that the sentiments expressed in the Taoiseach’s official apology are now delivered on.  Judge Quirke was appointed by the government to devise a scheme of payments to the survivors reported in May 2013, subsequently his recommendations were accepted by the government. A scheme of ex-gratia payments has now begun and the implementation of the recommendations is continuing. By April 2014, some 731 applications for compensation have been received and some €10 million has been paid to 280 Magdalene Laundry survivors.

JFM Research says it is preparing a response to the McAleese Report, which falls far short of honouring the lived experience of the women and girls who were incarcerated.  Will we ever know the full truth of what went on behind the Irish Magdalene Laundries’ walls for over 100 years?

Following the recent reports of serious questions around the mothers and baby homes and the promised Government inquiry into what occurred, many social justice organisations are urging that the inquiry would be widened to include a full investigation into the Magdalene Laundries, due to the extent of movement of women and children between both institutions.

Claire McGettrick has played an active role in the pursuit of truth and justice on these issues, her lecture will take place on Wednesday afternoon 30th July at 3pm at the Firkin Crane centre, and everyone is welcome.

Tadhg Barry Remembered

The extraordinary life and death of Tadhg Barry from Blarney Street.

 

Tadhg Barry

Cover image of Donal O Drisceóil’s pamphlet on Tadhg Barry

Tadhg Barry Remembered produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions.

 

The film of Tadhg Barry was first shown in Cork in 2013 and was also shown at the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. The film has provoked a huge reaction from many people, based not least as to how an extraordinary Irishman could be nearly forgotten. However that is now changing and the film has been shown in Cork, Dublin, and Belfast and also in England and there are plans to show it on TG4, Ireland’s Irish language television station. Recently a new road on the north side of Cork City near Apple Computers has been named the Tadhg Barry Road.

 

This film will be introduced by Trevor Quinn of SIPTU and Jack O’Sullivan of the Cork Council of Trade Unions and will be shown on Friday morning 1st August 2014 at 11am at the Firkin Crane as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Ann Piggott, President of Cork Council of Trade Unions, speaking at the naming ceremony for Tadhg Barry Road, Cork.

Ann Piggott, President of Cork Council of Trade Unions, speaking at the naming ceremony for Tadhg Barry Road, Cork.

 

Tadhg Barry was born in Cork in 1880. He lived on Blarney Street, went to school in the North Monastery and commenced work at Our Lady’s Asylum in 1899 as an attendant and after a period in England, came back to work as a public servant in the Pensions Board.

From the turn of the century, he became immersed in the growing national, cultural literary and political revival and moved in these circles which were led by Tomás Mac Curtain, Sean O’Hegarty and Terence MacSwiney. Tadhg was a brilliant organiser, keeper of notes and minutes, fine writer, quietly efficient and had wide interests.

Barry was an active member of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) but he and some others grew impatient with an inefficient Cork GAA Board and re organised it over a period of years. He had been involved with a number of GAA Clubs including Eire Og, Sundays Well Hurling Club and Fainne an Lae Camogie Club on Blarney Street. He played hurling, refereed, coached hurling and camogie, and wrote as the columnist Ciotog in the Cork Free Press. He even found time to write a book “Hurling and How to Play it” in 1916 especially for the boys of the North Mon.

He became more active with the Irish Volunteers and organised meetings for Larkin and James Connolly. Following the period of confusion in Cork which accompanied the 1916 Rising, Barry was active in re-establishing the Irish Transport & General Workers Union in the city, following its virtual demise locally after the 1909 Cork Lockout. As he became more prominent, due to mass imprisonments of leaders after 1916, he attracted attention from the authorities and spent much of 1917 in prison.

Barry threw himself into union activities during 1918 onwards as well as being very active in Sinn Fein and the Volunteers. He began to write for the Southern Star, under the heading “Neath Shandon’s Steeple” and contributed articles to various trade union publications.

Following a further period of imprisonment in 1918, he emerged to become a full-time organiser and secretary of the ITGWU No 1 (James Connolly Memorial) Branch. Never one to stay still for very long, Barry led strikes, pursued demands for wages increases and made the branch a model unit. He was selected as a candidate in the local elections of 1920 and Alderman Barry romped home.

He then combined his union activities with his public duties, which was very difficult at a time when two Lord Mayors of Cork died, one murdered and one on hunger strike. With virtual war taking place on the City streets, he managed to organise the Irish Trade Union Congress AGM in the old Connolly Hall in August 1920.

Finally in early February 1921, he was arrested and sent to Ballykinlar Camp in Co. Down, where he organised the camp activities and recreation, many socialist in nature, to keep the hundreds of volunteers active in those months. As the Treaty talks progressed after the Truce, some of the volunteers were being released.

On 15th November 1921, as he joined many others to say goodbye to a departing group, he was suddenly shot dead by a young sentry named Barrett. The cover up started immediately and the inquest was inconclusive as the British military authorities refused to cooperate.

His remains were returned to Cork; thousands of people marched in his funeral procession in Dublin or attended the passing of his remains through various towns.

On arrival in Cork, the body of Tadhg Barry was met by tens of thousands of people representing all shades of union, labour, nationalist and republican opinion as his remains were taken to the North Chapel. Sunday 20th November 1921 saw a huge turnout of people again on the route to his final resting place at St Finbarr’s cemetery.

Tadhg Barry represented a proud socialist republican tradition in the Connolly mould. The British forces regarded him as a serious troublemaker; however his active involvement in trade union, community, sporting and social organisations made him widely respected throughout the city. He operated quietly, had a reputation of a man who got things done effectively. His relatively short lifetime of service in the GAA, trade unions, and politically, so much of it behind the scenes out of the limelight in key pivotal positions, deserves to be more permanently commemorated in his native city.

We wish to thank Dr. Donal O’Drisceoil of U.C.C for his research from which the above account is drawn and which is contained in his pamphlet Tadhg Barry (1880-1921) The Story of an Irish Revolutionary.       

 

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Successful Press Launch for festival lineup

mother jones launch 2014 006

Aoife Delaney as a young Mary Harris at the launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at the Maldron. Aoife will appear at the Mother Jones Gala Concert at 9pm at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday 30th July.

Richard Cooke of the Cork Mother Jones festival committee with Eileen O'Keeffe of the Cork Rokk Choir at the press launch

Richard Cooke of the Cork Mother Jones festival committee with Eileen O’Keeffe of the Cork Rokk Choir at the press launch

A Press Launch to announce the lineup for the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival was held at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon on Thursday, 26th June.   The launch was attended by members of the Cork Mother Jones committee and by some of the local groups and individuals who will be speaking or performing at the festival which takes place in the Shandon area from 29th July to 1st August this year.

The local media were well represented and continued to take a keen interest in the festival.   The launch included a number of live performances which set the scene for what promises to be a very full and interesting festival.

Mother Jones and her Children – film premiere

Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films, filming on location at Mt. Olive cemetery, Illinois with Dave Rathke and Terry

Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films, filming on location at Mt. Olive cemetery, Illinois with Dave Rathke and Terry Reed.

Emma Bowell of Frameworks Films (right) with author / historian Marat Moore  on location in New York.

Emma Bowell of Frameworks Films (right) with author / historian Marat Moore on location in New York.

 

Eddie Noonan from Frameworks Films on location in Chicago with author Elliott Gorn

Eddie Noonan from Frameworks Films on location in Chicago with author Elliott Gorn

A new documentary on a unique woman from Cork will be screened at 8pm on Friday 1st August in the Firkin Crane, Cork as part of the Cork Mother Jones Festival 2014. ‘Mother Jones and her Children’ has been produced by Frameworks Films, a Cork based film production company, in collaboration with the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative Committee. ‘Mother Jones and her Children’ outlines the life of the most famous Cork woman in America – Mary Jones, formerly Mary Harris. The documentary tells of her extraordinary life – her early years in Cork, her survival of the Famine and emigration to Canada, her move to the US and her marriage to George Jones, her life as a mother to four young children, her tragic loss of her entire family and later her business, her entry into the labour movement and her growing involvement in organising workers to the point where she is dubbed ‘the most dangerous women in America’. With contributions from leading experts on Mother Jones, the documentary will restore her memory, particularly in her native city.

The documentary will also be broadcast on Cork Community Television on Saturday 2nd August 2014 at 8pm (available on Channel 803 on UPC’s digital cable package) and streamed live on www.corkcommunitytv.ie ‘Mother Jones and her Children’ was produced with the support of the Sound and Vision scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. For further information, please contact Frameworks Films on info@frameworksfilms.com or 021-4211010.

Children of Mother Jones – a new song by Pete Duffy

Children of Mother Jones. (c) Pete Duffy

A new ballad by Cork musician Pete Duffy, which will be performed publicly for the first time at 1pm on Thursday 31st July 2014 during “Music at the Maldron” session at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival with Muddy Lee. All are welcome to attend and sing along at this first performance of Children of Mother Jones for Cork’s famous rebel daughter. A Douglas Writers commemorative project for the Spirit of Mother Jones festival 2014.

Interesting films at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014

Film has beenfilm reel an important part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival since the beginning.  This year we will be showing five films covering the struggles of  people in extraordinary situations in the fight for justice and rights.  All film showings are free of charge. All welcome.

Tuesday 29th July – Friday 1st August 2014 

Admission is free and all are welcome. Firkin Crane Centre Shandon 6.00: “Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura Vazquez.     Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman is a documentary about the amazing labor heroine, Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones. Mother Jones’ organising career influenced the history of early 20th century United States. She overcame class and gender limitations to shape an identity that allowed her to become an effective labor organizer in the early 20th century. Mother Jones transformed personal and political grief and rage about class injustices into an effective persona that led workers into battles that changed the course of history. The terrible conditions and labor oppression of the time motivated her to traverse the country, in order to organise against injustices.

Release Date: May 2007 (Canada)Runtime: 24 min

Thursday: 31st July  

(Firkin Crane Centre downstairs)   11am:              Film: The Battle for Orgreave, (A film by Yvette Vanson, Producer/Director. www.yvettevanson).   In this film we witness the violent struggle of miners trying to save their jobs in what became one of the biggest public disturbances Britain has ever seen. The camera focuses on the blood covered face of an angry protester, he looks defiant as he is led away by riot police. This is no criminal but a man trying to protect his livelihood. 55 miners faced long prison terms because of their involvement in the disturbance at Orgreave. This film looks at their fight for justice. Orgreave in the North of England was the focal point for a mass protest by miners in June 1984. At this time miners were angry over proposed pit closures and reacted by striking and pressurising other pits to close. The culmination of these protests was a mass gathering of miners from all over the country at Orgreave. On the morning of 18th June miners were escorted into Orgreave. At this point police tactics already resembled a military campaign. After a push by the miners the police acted with force charging the pickets on horses. The protest soon turned violent with the police using heavy-handed tactics such as dogs and batons in an attempt to suppress the riot. In this film we interview defendants about their experiences of being at Orgreave and the tactics used by police.

Release Date: 1985   Runtime: 52 min   5.30 pm     

 

“Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre” a film from Greece by Lamprini    Thoma and Nickos Ventouras. (Irish Premier)   The Ludlow Massacre and the assassination of Greek immigrant and labor leader Louis Tikas (Elias Spantidakis) is one of the decisive moments of the American labor movement, an event that connects, a century later, the United States of 1914 to the labor and immigrant demands of Greece of 2014. Lamprini Thoma and Nikolaos Ventouras examined the memories, the history and the legacy of Louis Tikas and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado, talked with prominent historians, artists and descendants of Ludlow miners, and documented the scars left by this tragedy on the body of working America. Release Date: 2014 Runtime: 92 min http://www.palikari.org/

Friday 1st August. Mother Jones Day. 

(Firkin Crane Centre downstairs)   11am:        The extraordinary life and death of Tadhg Barry from Blarney St.         (Frameworks Films) with Trevor Quinn SIPTU, Jack O’Sullivan CCTU.   This documentary tells the story of Tadhg Barry (1880-1921), a native of Cork city, who has largely been forgotten. It seems hard to believe that a man whose funeral closed shops and factories could be relegated to a footnote in history. And yet this is what has happened to a man who was one of the last people to be killed by British forces during Ireland’s War of Independence, just weeks prior to the signing of the Treaty.

Release Date: 2013

Tadhg Barry Remembered has been produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions for broadcast on Cork Community Television. It was first broadcast on Cork Community Television on Sunday 5th May at 8pm. The documentary was funded under the Sound & Vision scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

8.00 pm:   “Mother Jones and her Children”.  (Firkin Crane upstairs.) Documentary Premiere by Frameworks Films. Release Date: 2014

The Battle for Orgreave – 30 years on

Orgreave Festival poster 2014

Orgreave Festival poster 2014

Paul Winter of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Committee (OTJC) will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday morning 30th July 2014 at 12 noon at the Firkin Crane, where as an eye witness he will describe the events of 30 years ago at the Orgreave Coking works during the British Miners Strike.

Paul’s account of his experiences will be preceded by the classic film The Battle for Orgreave by Journeyman Pictures and shown with the kind permission of producer/director Yvette Vanson. 

Paul Winter

Paul Winter

The Battle for Orgreave was a major event during the British Miners strike. Orgreave was the site of a Coking Works in the North of England which had been subject to picketing in an effort to bring production to a halt during the strike. It then became a focal point of the miners’ anger on the morning of 18th June 1984 when a mass gathering of pickets from all over Britain converged on Orgreave.

The events of that day have left a lasting legacy of bitterness all across mining communities ever since. Organisations such as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Committee (OTJC) have continued to campaign for the full story of Orgreave to be told. What happened at Orgreave, and the scenes of brutality involving a full scale charge on horseback on the miners by the police gave rise to some of the most horrifying images of violence ever seen in an industrial dispute anywhere!

While Mother Jones in her day would have experienced extreme violence against miners, the scenes at Orgreave were reminiscent of the violence perpetrated on the ordinary workers of Dublin during the infamous 1913 Lockout.

The events of the day formed an essential element of the efforts by the Thatcher government to defeat the miners by any means whatever. The use of the police in this manner by Margaret Thatcher ensured that the events would never be investigated and like the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, the payback was made by official cover ups and lies.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is extremely grateful to have received permission from Yvette Vanson, the Producer/Director of the film “The Battle For Orgreave” to permit a showing of the film at the Spirit of Mother Jones festival. This was first shown on Channel 4.

This will be followed with a talk by Paul Winter of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Committee. Paul is an ex miner from Barnsley who worked in the mining industry from 1980 to 1993 and was present at the Battle For Orgreave. Paul will describe the events of the day and will discuss the impact of the miners strike on his small but proud and passionate community. An understanding of the sometimes ignored events at Orgreave on that morning in June 1984 is essential to understanding the wider anger and raw feelings of injustice in the mining communities which remain to this very day!