Saoirse Women’s Refuge founder Pam ‘was a real gem’

By Mary Dennehy

TRIBUTES have been made to Saoirse Women’s Refuge founder Pam O’Connor, who passed away following a short illness after decades dedicated to providing a safe place for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

A mother to three children, Pam, who lived in Old Bawn with husband Brendan, passed away on Tuesday, January 12.

Pam OConnor left Saoirse 1

Pam (left) is pictured with Allison Graham at the opening of Saoirse’s second refuge in South Dublin County in 2019

She was 69 years old.

Before Saoirse opened in 2006, Pam had spent more than 12 years lobbying and raising the need for a refuge in the Tallaght area.

This dedication was the catalyst for Saoirse’s domestic violence services in the South Dublin County area, and saw the opening of a refuge in Tallaght in 2006 and a second refuge in Rathcoole in 2019.

Since Saoirse opened in 2006, its refuge, outreach services and helpline have supported thousands of families.

Speaking with The Echo, Allison Graham, Saoirse CEO, said there would be no Saoirse without Pam.

“Pam spent so many years trying to get recognition and funding for a service in the area”, Allison said.

“She was the catalyst for Saoirse and its advocate.”

It was early 2006 when Allison came to work at Saoirse and at that time, Pam had secured a building and funding for staff, with support from organisations including South Dublin County Council and the HSE.

“We spent 2006 doing work on the building and employing a full compliment of staff, and we opened at the end of the year”, Allison remembers.

“Pam was Saoirse’s Chairperson....it was like a full-time job to Pam, but it was all voluntary.

“It all came from Pam, from her passion, dedication and commitment...Saoirse is totally her legacy.

“We have supported thousands of women and children in the past 15 years, families we wouldn’t be helping if it wasn’t for Pam.”

Pam, who was a trained psychotherapist, stepped back from Saoirse’s Board in recent years.

However, after volunteering more than 20 years to the delivery of domestic violence services locally, Pam remained interested in and connected to Saoirse.

“Pam was such a community person, a grass roots worker... she had great connections to the Tallaght area”, Allison said.

“She knew her local area and knew what was needed.

“She always had a love for supporting women and women’s rights... and was involved in lots of women’s groups across the area.”

Pam was laid to rest with her parents at a family funeral in Mount Jerome on Monday, January 18.

Her husband Brendan and children Owen, Matthew and Shirley have invited members of the community to make a donation to Saoirse in memory of Pam, and in place of flowers. 

Speaking with The Echo after the funeral, Allison remembered Pam fondly, both personally and professionally.

“Pam was a bright shining light”, Allison said.

“She was an incredible mentor to myself and everyone who has come through Saoirse.

“When people met her they said she always had a smile and a great energy and happiness about her... she loved a laugh.

“Pam was so selfless in everything she did, she was a real gem.”

For further details on Saoirse visit Saoirse Womens Refuge.

Call Saoirse’s 24-hour helpline on 4630000.

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