The area of Dawson St in Dublin outside the Mansion Home has been the scene of many a joyous homecoming but surely none so emotionally charged as the evening of 5th June 2018, when 250 survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and their families were honoured and celebrated by the City of Dublin.
When these women were in Magdalene Laundries their names were changed. In some cases they were assigned numbers instead of names and they were never allowed to speak to each other. Bringing them together for the first time was a major step forward in redress for the huge wrong that was done to them. The majority of the women are now aged between late 70s to early 90s and this was the first time they had been invited to come together to swap stories, share experiences and to reconnect. It was an additional bonus to be celebrated by the President, Government and more importantly, for them, by the Irish people.
Centred on a series of interviews with the Magdalene survivors, Coming Home tells the story of those 2 dramatic days in Dublin.
Produced in conjunction with event organiser Norah Casey, this ultimately uplifting documentary, builds on existing unique and extensive footage to recreate the atmosphere and feeling of the evening of the 5th June when the women arrived firstly to Áras an Uachtaráin and subsequently to the Mansion House. From late afternoon members of the public had started to gather on Dawson St in a seemingly spontaneous response to what was happening. Word spread and as the numbers grew, the Gardai tried to keep people out of the traffic. Crowds shuffled for space along the pavement on both sides and news crews set up their gear.
When the coaches turned down Dawson St people began to cheer and applaud. The doors opened and the first of the middle aged and elderly women descended. It was a hugely emotional scene as these unlikely heroes accompanied by family, carers and friends walked or were helped from the buses and brought across the road. The crowds loudly cheered and applauded. Some of the women were clearly overwhelmed with the numbers of people and the noise, others relished the atmosphere and pumped the air in gestures of defiance and strength.
This documentary features women describing their experiences when, having been silenced, shamed and shunned all their lives, they were now being celebrated and embraced by the people of Ireland. Certainly none of them could have ever dreamed that a day like this would happen. The Event Manager of the Mansion House said he had never seen anything like it in all his years. Even the Gardai were crying.
Over the two days and nights the women visited the Aras where they received an official apology from the President. Later they were invited to a Gala Dinner hosted by the Lord Mayor and the Minister for Justice where they were treated to a concert featuring Christy Moore, Dana, The Three Tenors, Philomena Begley among many others. The following day they attended a workshop and listening exercise, a networking event and a performance of Riverdance.
“Coming Home” offers Irish audiences an opportunity to relive this extraordinary event through the eyes of the women who were at the centre of it all. It offers the women themselves, and all those who were involved in its organisation, the chance to reflect on what it felt like at the time and what impact it has had on their lives since.
Survivors who contribute to the documentary include Elizabeth Coppin, Deirdre Cadwell, Elizabeth (Anne) O’Dwyer, and Delia Hanney.
In addition to the survivors we speak to President Michael D. Higgins who recalls the emotional impact of the events at the Áras, Dublin Honours Magdalenes Ambassador Norah Casey, Justice for Magdalenes campaigners Maeve O’Rourke, Katherine O’Donnell and Claire McGettrick, and hear from a selection of musicians and artists who were involved in the entertainment over the 2 days including Christy Moore and the Hothouse Flowers.