*Mary Fitzgerald. 

TRIBUTES have been paid to the founder of Clare Haven Services, Mary Fitzgerald who died on Sunday following a long illness.

Originally from Maghera in Inagh, Mary had resided at Ballymacahill in Ennis, she made a pioneering contribution over many years in helping to address issues surrounding domestic violence and abuse, assisting countless women and children.

In 1993, she founded Clare Haven Services which eventually led to the development of a 24-hour refuge for those escaping domestic abuse.

Her tireless work saw her honoured the Christine Buckley Volunteer of the Year in 2018 and two years ago she was presented with the Hall of Fame award by the Clare Association Dublin.

Mary volunteered from an early age and previously travelled to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. On her return to Ireland, Fitzgerald started to take in families who were fleeing from domestic violence so they wouldn’t have to sleep in a Ennis Garda Station.

She was keen to assist girls and boys to identify abusive patterns early on in a relationship and in the 1990s she delivered school workshops about healthy relationships. These workshops have now become part of the current SPHE programme in secondary schools.

Speaking at The Falls Hotel when honoured by the Clare Association, Mary dedicated the award to the 251 women and 20 children who had been murdered in Ireland since 1996. “To quote Bishop Desmond Tutu there comes a point where we need to do more than taking people from the river. We need to go upstream and find out what is the cause,” she said.

“Haven Horizons was set up to address prevention. Domestic violence is a patterned crime and we need to focus on solutions and there in lies an opportunity for change. Haven Horizons is capably managed by Madeline McAleer and alongside Katarina Tarinova and they and the board were providing courses, working with gardai and frontline workers. Home is still the most dangerous place for women and children. It really prove to us all that together we can change anything”.

She also paid tribute to her mother Kathleen whom she said was a source of encouragement and inspiration to her.

Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) who as Mayor of the Ennis Municipal District in 2019 nominated Mary as the Grand Marshal for the St Patrick’s Day parade in the county town said she was “so saddened” to hear of Mary’s death. “The incredible good works accomplished by Mary made her an angel in this life. An Angel that has left this world too soon, but one who will remain our angel forever”.

Mary died on Sunday at Galway Clinic on Sunday. Large crowds attended her reposal at her home in Ballymacahill on Tuesday and the funeral mass was in Kilnamona Church on Wednesday.

She is predeceased by her father Gerard, sister Geraldine and sister-in-law Bridie,she is survived by her husband Martin Feerick, children Caoimhe and Enya, mother Kathleen, siblings Brendan, Raymond, Gerard, Kevin, Sheila and Sinead, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives, neighbours and friends.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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