Unite challenges Legion of Mary to follow up their words of support for women’s hostel with action to save vital service

Unite Leader, Sharon Graham, calls for direct engagement with Legion of Mary, Communities Minister and NI Housing Executive to find solution

The work-in by staff to save Regina Coeli House, Northern Ireland’s only women-only hostel offering on-site support for homeless and vulnerable women is now into its third week. Unite the union responded to a statement this week issued by the Legion of Mary.

The letter stated that the Down & Connor Comitium of the Legion of Mary recognised ‘the need for the provision of a female-only hostel’ and asserted that they were ‘completely open to discussions to seek a way forward’ but that due to the state of the building ‘even if funding for the critically necessary works was found, the building still could not remain open to residents’.

The union’s General Secretary Sharon Graham responded:

 We welcome the fact that the Legion of Mary has issued this public statement on Regina Coeli House and the fact that they have gotten in touch. We note their commitment to seek a way forward – it is now vital words can be turned into action.

“We reiterate our call for direct engagement between Unite, the Legion of Mary,  the Communities’ Minister Deirdre Hargey and representatives of the NI Housing Executive. Only by getting all the key players around the table will we get a solution in which this service continues and our members’ jobs are secured.”

Jackie Pollock, Unite Regional Secretary

Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock challenged the Legion of Mary to remove the threats to residents and staff. He said:

“The Legion of Mary commends the ‘dedication of staff’ at Regina Coeli House but that does not sit well with the fact that these same staff were suspended by the management committee and forced to raise significant grievances. The statement recognises that Regina Coeli House provided a place of sanctuary for many women but doesn’t comment on the fact that remaining residents were issued with a notice to quit.  

The Legion of Mary say that the building is now unfit for purpose even if repairs were made. If that is a stumbling block we would suggest that the Legion should freely transfer ownership of the building to the Housing Executive who can then find temporary alternate provision for both workers and residents while the necessary repairs are made. That would secure the facility for the women who have to use it and secure the jobs of the workers who run it”

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