President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins are to host a reception this summer for up to 800 women who spent time in Magdalene Laundries.

The gathering is scheduled for 5 June, at the opening of a two-day gathering which will give many Magdalene women their first opportunity to, as the organisers put it, "speak freely to other women incarcerated in the laundries".

The event at Dublin's Mansion House is being organised by Dublin Honours Magdalenes (DHM), a voluntary group which has joined the entrepreneur Norah Casey to honour the women.

It has secured the support of the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, whose department issued invitations to Magdalene women yesterday on behalf of DHM and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál Mac Donnacha.

It adds that both the Minister and Dublin City Councillors have provided financial support to ensure the gathering is "a very special occasion".

In a separate statement, Mr Flanagan said he hoped that the gathering will be well attended.

His department explained that it has a database of Magdalene women arising from the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme through which almost 700 women received payments and enhanced health and social welfare provisions.

The statement adds that for Data Protection purposes, the department could not share the database with the organisers, but agreed to issue invitations on their behalf.

It is understood that all applicants for the scheme have been invited, including those whose submissions were rejected.

Last January, the department told an Oireachtas committee it had received 830 applications from women who spent time in 12 specific Magdalene laundries.

It said 686 women had been paid €25.7 million in lump sum payments and €258,000 in legal costs.

The figure does not include pension payments and medical card costs.

However, 106 women applicants had been refused payments because officials found they had not been placed in one of 12 facilities.

Last week, the Government appointed a senior barrister to review the rejections five months after Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall had criticised the department for applying criteria which were too narrow.

The barrister will also review the plight of women who no longer had the mental capacity to receive a payment and whose numbers had shrunk from about 40 to 18 since last November.

Mr Tyndall told January's hearing that in his ten years as an ombudsman, he had never experienced a similar attitude from a Government department which, at the time was refusing to engage on his findings.

The committee also heard that Dublin City Council plans to develop a memorial garden in Sean McDermott Street, the site of the State's last laundry.

The State's last Magdalene Laundry is at a site on Sean McDermott St

Today, DHM said the historic event in June will fulfil two key aspects of the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme, which was established by the Fine Gael-Labour government in 2013.

They are to bring together women who wish to meet others who also spent time in the Magdalene Laundries, and to provide an opportunity for gathering their views on how the Magdalene Laundries should be remembered by future generations. 

Following the reception, participants will be invited to a gala dinner at Dublin's Mansion House.

The DHM statement says that on 6 June at the same venue, former Magdalene women will be invited to share their views and thoughts on how the Magdalene Laundries might be remembered by future generations.

"For those who wish to participate, the exercise will be facilitated by UCD Magdalene Oral History project, and it will be conducted in a way that respects the women's privacy. Afterwards, the views gathered will be anonymised and made freely available on-line to the public," the statement explains.

DHM will provide all of the arrangements in Dublin including accommodation for the two nights and transport to and from all of the special events that are taking place.

Norah Casey said it was a privilege to be part of what she called "this long-awaited gathering of these amazing women".

She added that the organisers hope that the whole country will join them in honouring and welcoming the women to what she called "this very special event".

In the statement, Claire McGettrick of DHM predicted that, naturally, there would be a lot of media interest in the first invitation to the women who worked at the Magdalene Laundries to gather together.

However, she reassured anyone considering attending that their privacy would be protected.

"For those who have any concerns about their personal privacy there will be secure arrangements put in place … to ensure that they are protected from the media spotlight."

Maeve O'Rourke of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and one of the DHM organising committee, recalled that Mr Justice John Quirke's report on what the Magdalene restorative justice scheme should involve recognised that redress takes many different forms.

She said that after former taoiseach Enda Kenny's Dáil apology in 2013, Judge Quirke's team spoke with over 300 Magdalene survivors.

"The women said that they wanted an opportunity to meet each other - something that has been impossible for many whose names were changed and who escaped the laundries without warning.

"They also said that they wanted to be involved in deciding how the Magdalene Laundries should be remembered," Ms O'Rourke concluded.