The gathering of the last survivors of the Magdalene laundries last summer reawakened the collective Irish memory to the tragic fate many women encountered in those institutions and the complex relationship – and sometimes dark history – between the Church and women in Ireland.

A topic which is close to Marie Collins’s heart and deeply rooted within her personal experience. A victim of sexual abuse as a child in the 1960s, Marie Collins had to overcome the pressure of local church authorities and the paralyzing side effects of trauma before being able to come forward with her story in 1990s. Her testimony, alongside many others, saw justice partly served to the culprit, but Collins’ actions did not stop there.

Over the years, Collins has become a steady voice advocating for mental health and justice for survivors and, more particularly, for the defense of children against sexual abuse:  she is one of the founders of the Irish depression group ‘Aware’ (she ran its voluntary Helpline for many years), assisted the Archdiocese of Dublin in setting up their Child Protection Service and is a founding Trustee of ‘One in Four’ an advocacy and Counselling support group for abuse survivors.

In 2009, she also set up the Marie Collins Foundation, a charity providing support to children victims of abuse online or on other mobile technologies. Marie Collins’s voice has become a household name of bravery and dignity in Ireland.

Frustrated by the death ear turned by men of the church against accusations of pedophilia within its ranks, Collins resigned in 2017 the position she had been occupying for three years on the invitation of Pope Francis in sign of protest. Ms. Collins’s commitment to truth-speaking and justice – despite much opposition and resistance - has made of her one of the most prominent and resilient voices contributing to the change of the Church in Ireland. Her bravery earned her the 2010 Humber Summer School award for Courage.