Mary Fitzgerald

November 15, 2018

Voting FAQs
Charity / Organisation associated with Hero

Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta, Clare Haven Services, Haven Horizons
Period Hero has been volunteering for

35 year of volunteering
Dedication of Volunteer

From an early age Mary wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. In her teens, she was moved by the pictures on TV of the street children in India and she travelled to volunteer with the Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. On her return, she was touched by the plight of Clare families fleeing from domestic abuse who were forced to stay overnight in the reception of the local Garda station - because there was nowhere in Clare for them to go. Mary took some of these women and children into her own home. Mary decided that she needed to do something about the situation. This led Mary to rent a small terraced house in her native Ennis to provide shelter for one family at a time who needed a safe and secure environment for themselves and their children. Mary was also helped in this by the kindness of the late Jim Brennan and his family in Rathcoole Co Dublin who provided the initial funding for the project. Mary got a small group of people together and they co-founded the charity, Clare Haven Services in 1993. Over the next few years the house was in continuous demand, as the scale of the rarely spoken about domestic abuse issue in Clare became apparent. The project grew and a FAS Community Employment scheme provided support for the project’s further development. Mary had the vision to ask why women and children had to leave their homes to seek shelter. She recognised that more awareness, education and training needed for women, community and intervening agencies if these patterns were to change safety for women and accountability of perpetrators. Mary’s vision was that women and children could live a life free from violence and fear.
Impact made by volunteer

Mary's work was recognised and funded by the Health Board, HSE, Tusla - Lotto, Millennium and other funders provided much needed funds as the demand for the service increased year on year. Mary’s tireless work led to collaboration with Respond Housing Association and the building of a six-unit purpose built 24hr refuge. The refuge was officially opened in 2002 by President Mary McAleese. Since then Clare Haven Services has provided emergency accommodation, outreach, court accompanying and educational programmes, helping hundreds of women and children escape from abusive relationships. Early programmes that she helped to initiate like Insights helped women identify patterns of abuse and set goals, bringing about self-determined change in their lives. Mary also recognised the need to help young girls and boys identify abusive patterns early on in a relationship and in the 1990’s, she delivered school workshops on Healthy Relationships . This has now become part of the current SPHE Programme in Secondary Schools.
Creativity / Initiative / Passion showed by volunteer

Mary realised that the real challenge in addressing gender-based violence needed more than providing accommodation, support and counselling. Mary had the vision around breaking the cycle of abuse, preventing women and young people from going into unhealthy relationships. Ellen Pence, the American academic and social activist from the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project came to Ireland in the 1990’s to do presentations on the award winning Duluth model. Mary recognised that a similar model should be set up here, if a long-term solution to domestic violence in Ireland was to be achieved. Mary set up a second charity in 2013, called Haven Horizons, with the aim of bringing about the individual, family, community and societal changes necessary for the elimination of relationship abuse and the associated gender inequality. Mary had the vison to support the establishment of a charity shop to ring-fence funding for a range of prevention projects which would provide long-term solutions to combat the pervasive nature of the problem of domestic abuse in Ireland. This led to research into the Minnesota Blueprint for Safety model (an interagency criminal justice response to domestic abuse that prioritises the safety of women and holding perpetrators accountable). Mary worked with An Garda Síochána to bring the team from St. Paul over to Ireland to address national interagency representatives in Dublin, which resulted in the proposal for adopting the Blueprint as a national pilot project and national coverage of the issue on the DriveTime radio programme. The proposal is currently with the Garda Síochána Commissioner for approval. Mary has worked tirelessly for over 25 years to make the home a safer place for women and children caught in the trap of an abusive partner. She continues to work today, always in a voluntary capacity with the dream of the Clare intervention project becoming standard practice not just in Clare but throughout Ireland. A vision realised Mary has volunteered and dedicated hundreds of hours every year over the last 30+ to achieving her vision for a future free from violence and domestic abuse. As well as setting up and securing funding for the two charities, Mary has supported many individuals who have come to her for help personally or for advice on setting up services that address inequality and other gaps in service provision. Mary has always been generous and given her time to support people’s personal development, their personal journey or their vision for a better future.

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