Safe Ireland recognises mothers living with coercion – past and present – with creative campaign this Mothers’ Day

“It is only by addressing the oppression in our past and our present that we can reshape a more equal and safe future,” says Safe Ireland CEO Mary McDermott

Safe Ireland will launch a new campaign this Saturday, March 13th, the eve of Mothers’ Day 2021, to honour the courage and resilience of survivors who were coerced into Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes. The campaign acknowledges these voices and all the voices that remain hidden in our communities, still silenced by coercion.

Link to video of Mothers Day - The Hidden Stories

The national agency working with 39 domestic violence member services across the country has teamed up with creative agency TBWA Dublin to create special Mothers’ Day cards as a central part of the campaign, called Mothers’ Day, The Hidden Stories. The cards contain voice recordings from survivors of the Mother and Baby institutions and are being placed around Dublin. A short film will document the public discovering the cards which will be released on Saturday across social media platforms. TBWA has provided all of its creative work pro-bono to Safe Ireland in conceptualising and developing this campaign.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland, said that as a society we must continue the work of so many courageous women from our hidden history. It is only by addressing the oppression in our past and present that we can reshape a more just and safe future, she said.

“We do not want in any way to claim the experiences of the women who were sent to institutions nor the hard work of individuals and organisations that have campaigned for years for their justice,” McDermott said. “We want to honour them and recognise their resilience and bravery in the face of the coercion they experienced.”

“However, we emphasise that this form of control and abuse is not consigned to history. Analogous coercions continue today in many ways,” she continued. “It exists in controlling and abusive relationships, and in our homes and in our communities. It also exists in the fact that women still feel unsafe in public spaces. Sarah Everard’s painful story tells this tale.”

Link to video of Mothers Day - The Hidden Stories

The campaign is an extremely positive and hopeful one, she said. It is telling mothers, and women everywhere, that you do not have to live in an oppressive home, that we have learnt from the brave women of our past, that we are continuing to learn, and that there is professional support available in your community.

“We are hopeful in these lockdown times when home is more important than ever that we can change things, that we can make Ireland a much safer place for women and children,” she said. “We have seen an outpouring of understanding and support for survivors of abuse and coercion from all sectors. It has shown us that we can speak about this with skill and hope and we can stop abuse.”

There are two voice recordings within the special Mothers’ Day cards. One woman speaks of the communal shame imposed upon unwed mothers-to-be by the community and wider society. Another reflects on the pain of her choice and of her voice being stripped from her but leaves us with the empowering statement that she has reclaimed her voice now.

At the time of the publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, Safe Ireland issued a statement commending the bravery of the survivors. The Report focused strongly on the control, abuse and brutality that took place within the institutions. Safe Ireland condemned this brutality and also focused on the coercion rooted at the core of State, Church, commercial interests as well as families and communities, which led to women being sent to the institutions.

Safe Ireland wants to thank TBWA/Dublin for their creativity and generosity in teaming up with us for this Mother’s Day Campaign.