For two days in June 2018, the long dishonoured women of Ireland's Magdalene Laundries were welcomed home and honoured - by the President and by the city of Dublin. This moving film salutes their courage in making that trip and sharing their stories.
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Centred on interviews with Magdalene Laundry survivors, some of whom will be speaking for the first time, Coming Home tells the emotional story of two dramatic days in June 2018 when Dublin honoured the Magdalenes.
The area of Dawson Street in Dublin outside the Mansion House has been the scene of many a joyous homecoming, but 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 in 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 then be celebrated by the President of Ireland, Government and more importantly, for them, by the Irish people.
Centred on a series of interviews with the Magdalene survivors, some of whom will be speaking for the first time, Coming Hometells the story of those two 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 Street 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 Street 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. 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 Áras where they received an official apology from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. Later they were invited to a gala dinner hosted by the Lord Mayor and the Minister for Justice where they were treated to performances from 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, meet some of the organisers including Norah Casey, Maeve O’Rourke and Katherine O’Donnell, and hear from a selection of musicians and artists who were involved in the entertainment over the two days including Christy Moore and the Hothouse Flowers.
Coming Home – When Dublin Honoured The Magdalenes airs on RTÉ One on Tuesday 25th at 7pm