Domestic Abuse refuge to open at Galway Magdalene Laundry convent

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COPE Galway are paying tribute to suffering of the women who were confined to Galway’s Magdalene laundry by converting the convent associated with it to a modern domestic abuse service.

The local charity is renovating the Mercy convent associated with the Forster Street Magdalene Laundry into a refuge for women and children who have been the victims of domestic abuse.

The state of the art facility named ModhEile, the Irish for “Another Way”, is needed as COPE Galway acknowledges that the current Waterside House building used for the Domestic Abuse services hasn’t been fit for purpose for many years.

In particular, it doesn’t have enough space for all who come looking for safe refuge there. Last year COPE couldn’t accommodate 258 women and their 441 children who sought refuge with them.

The search for a new building began a decade ago, and then five years in the Mercy Order offered COPE the gift of the old convent building in the heart of Galway city.

When work on it is done it will more than double COPE’s capacity to provide shelter from people escaping abusive domestic situations.

Jacquie Horan, COPE Galway CEO said they are mindful of the history of the site, “We have been very proactive from the start of our journey in terms of archaeological considerations also. We commissioned an archaeological and architectural risk assessment which was conducted in 2013 by Finn Delaney.”

“We then contracted the services of John Tierney from Eachtra and the Historical Graves project to engage with the local community and produce a historical and memorial record of the Magdalen Laundry here in Galway and of the women who lived and worked here.”

To help respect and commemorate the women who lived and worked in the magdalene laundry COPE have created a booklet that gathers their stories from this painful chapter of history.

The booklet, produced by John Tierney of Eachtra features contributions from the people of Galway and the accounts of four women who lived there.

It also contains the records of 80 women who are either buried at the site of the Magdalene Laundry or in Bohermore cemetery.

After more than a century and a half in operation, the Galway Magdalene Laundry closed its doors in 1984 and the buildings were demolished in ’91.

Maisie Kenny’s Escape, not her real name, is one of the stories the booklet features. When she was 14 years old she was confined to the laundry for four years from 1948 to 1952.

“They are giving the Convent to COPE Galway. I see that as a little token of atonement,” she said.

“There will always be women or girls in need of shelter, but there must never again be a shelter where you go in and the door is locked behind you and the key thrown away.”

Tuam based Carey Building Contractors have been appointed to carry out the renovations to the convent which are expected to take roughly a year.

The refuge will open its doors to people in need of shelter or other domestic abuse services by the end of 2019.

here are many in our communities who today are experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse in all its forms,” said Jacquie Horan.

“And when they look to COPE Galway to protect them and their children, they deserve a facility that will meet their needs and help them to begin life anew.”