Tag Archives: Magdalene Laundries

Tomorrow at 8pm.

At the Belltable at 69 O’Connell Street, Limerick.

There will be a reading of the play Displace by Katie O’Reilly.

Belltable writes:

A cyclical history of Ireland’s dark secrets. Spanning generations, Displace delves into the underworld of Irish institutionalisation. From the Magdalene Laundry to Direct Provision, we are brought with Molly and Fidda as they navigate through the labrynth of bureaucracy, violence and isolation and ask – how far have we come?

Following on from the work-in-progress last June, we are delighted to present a rehearsed reading of the final script of Displace, developed as part of Katie O’Kelly’s residency at Belltable, supported by Limerick Arts Office.

This reading will mark International Human Rights Week, and will be followed by a short post show discussion.

Tickets, for €8, can be bought here

Dr Maeve O’Rourke; Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan

Yesterday evening.

Human rights lawyer and legal adviser to the Clann Project Dr Maeve O’Rourke tweeted a thread on foot of an article by Irish Examiner journalist Conall Ó Fátharta.

Ó Fátharta reported how women who worked in Magdalene laundries, but who have been wrongly excluded from a redress scheme, are now expected to provide “records” showing how long they worked in the institution.

He also reported the requirement follows the publication of an addendum to the scheme by the Department of Justice this week…

Women excluded from Magdalene laundries redress must provide ‘records’ of work (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner)

Previously: “It’s Like As If They’re Calling Us Liars”

Magdalene Laundries.

An eight-minute performance last Saturday by members of Kidkast Theatre School & Agency, aged between 7 and 16.

At a Showchoir Ireland event in The O’Reilly Theatre, Belvedere College, Dublin.

Concept, direction and choreography by Tracey Martin; vocals and staging by Sarah Louisa Nolan.

Previously: Escape From The Magdalene Laundry

“It’s Like As If They’re Calling Us Liars”

‘I, As Taoiseach…Deeply Regret And Apologise Unreservedly To All Those Women’


Thanks Sarah-Louise Nolan

Denied compensation: Magdalene survivor Maureen Sullivan

On October 23 last, Ellen Coyne, in The Times Ireland edition, reported how some women who worked in Magdalene Laundries feared the Government was trying to limit their compensation.

These are women who would have lived in adjoining institutions to the laundries, as opposed to the laundries themselves.

Ms Coyne reported:

The Department of Justice is asking the women to provide details of how many hours they worked in the laundries, despite few records of rosters being available.

Until now, compensation for Magdalene survivors has been based on the months and years spent in the laundries and not the number of hours worked.

The 2013 Quirke report had said that compensation would be calculated based on the number of months or years that a woman had worked in the laundry, and survivors were never asked on previous applications for redress how many hours they worked.

“How do the government expect me to answer that question with any sort of accuracy?” said “Anna”, a 56-year-old survivor.

Further to this on today’s News At One on RTÉ One.

A woman who worked in a laundry – Maureen Sullivan, from Carlow – told RTE reporter Joan O’Sullivan that she has been supplying information to the Department of Justice since 2009, as part of her application for redress, and the department is still asking her questions.

Ms Sullivan said:

“I first started in 2009 and this is 2018.

“We have all the proof that we were in these places, well I have. I’ve all the proof and still they’re looking for bits of paper that doesn’t make sense.

“Like, they’ve asked me for my mother’s marriage certificate but I think to leave us hanging on this long and to put us through all this over and over again.

“It just causes frustration and our age group – we’re not able for this.

“Like my friend, 84 years of age, here, not far from me, in Carlow, she can’t cope with it any more. She’s been through the courts and everything.

“She was one of the women in the last group that took it into court and still this woman – they even refused to give her a meeting, to sit down and speak with her. So she just can’t take it anymore.

“She’s not able for it. And I think that’s awful sad.

“That’s not what we went out and fought for. And done marches for and brought all this to the fore. And then for an old lady of 84 years of age to be treated like this – it’s just scandalous.

It’s very stressful and it’s like as if they’re calling us liars.”


Claire Byrne spoke with the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall who published a report last year called Opportunity Lost – An Investigation by the Ombudsman in to the administration of the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme, in which he criticised the Department of Justice for its administration of the scheme and it’s exclusion of the women who worked at the laundries.

He told Ms Byrne:

As far as we were concerned, they [the women who worked in the laundries but lived in adjoining institutions] could have been admitted to the original scheme. It didn’t require an addendum to the scheme but Government have taken the view that an addendum is necessary to enable them to access the scheme.

“If that were the case, it should have been processed and dealt with quickly. Our concern has been that it’s a year since the report was issued. That addendum still hasn’t been finalised.”

Listen back in full here


Ashley Perry

While stepping out of the Dublin airport into the brisk chill of an average late September afternoon in Ireland, my body immediately recognised the stark contrast of the climate that I was accustomed to.

My journey began in my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The humidity and summer blaze can never be escaped that time of year. Ironically, at the drop of a few degrees women, idealistically called ‘southern belles’, would emerge from their well to-do neighbourhoods in knee-high snow boots and the occasional faux fur vest if that day’s events called for more upscale encounters despite the sweat accumulating before walking out their doors.

My thoughts raced but I had hoped, in a sense, I would escape the South to emerge myself in the culture of Europe. Albeit, the weather was different and women weren’t dawned in faux fur vests despite the temperature being drastically unfathomable by ‘southern belles’ but something felt familiar.

I would come to recognize that despite the weather, Ireland and Alabama had more in common than I could have ever imagined.

Studying abroad had always been my dream. As a small, town girl from Alabama, I can even recount doing a Little Miss Beauty Pageant that vaguely reiterated a small questionnaire about my hopes and dreams as I attempted, but failed, to gracefully glide across a poorly lit gymnasium.

Contestant Number 13, Miss Ashley Perry, would like to backpack across Europe instead of pursuing a college degree.’ As fate would have it I would move to Europe at 21, but to pursue a Masters in Human Rights.

In meeting my Irish classmates the conversation seemed to always shift to the political climate of Alabama. Questions mainly boiled down to if Alabama was still racist and if so, what were my thoughts on this. Although my classmates, who I now consider dear friends, didn’t intentionally mean to be so inconspicuous, their questions were asked to discover if I in fact was racist.

Of course, my reaction would be dripping with pure optimism about the trajectory of race relations in the South but in the beginning, I never had the heart to tell them the reality. Despite my adamant stance on the equality of all, my own maternal grandfather was an avid member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Forever haunted by my genealogical past, I did everything in my power to be the antithesis of who he was and what he stood for without exposing a well-kept family secret. At some stages of my younger life I genuinely questioned if things would ever get better or if this little portion of America would stay forever halted in the past.

When discussing race in Alabama, one will often find, within a white dominated crowd, people acknowledge the past to a degree but there will always be a quite daunting sentiment that seemed incongruent with the current race relations of America today stated. ‘When will people get over it?’

That sentence would be reiterated to me by an Irish Department of Justice and Equality official when I found myself working for an organisation that advocated for survivors of the Magdalene Laundries. Although I took the internship position to fulfil my requirements for my masters degree, I had at this point become deeply entrenched in the institutionalized abuse of women by the Catholic church.

The Official in question would ask me this at a post-United Nations review session cocktail event while still in Geneva. Even at the very meeting, him and all the others involved with the Magdalene redress scheme were to be questioned on their productivity, there was still a lack of understanding of how demeaning Ireland treated women by eliminating their own autonomy and entrapping them for almost a century.

As the words left his mouth, it was as if I’d already knew the discussion that was going to ensue because I’d had it multiple times before in Alabama. I firmly pleaded with him to understand that the issues of the past are most definitely the issues of today’s Ireland. I was met with a smug smile that seemed to purvey a sense of insignificance.

The stage and actors had been transformed but the narrative still remained. It was when I knew I had not escaped Alabama’s tumultuous race relations but simply exchanged one group of oppressors for another.

I reminisce on this day quite frequently when wrestling with the love I have for Ireland and Alabama, while recognising the horrible truths of the societies’ biases. As my Irish classmates questioned me about Alabama and the treatment of African Americans, there was cognisant thoughtfulness on how the issues of the past still were perceived as issues of today.

Although it took time, I eventually felt the responsibility to express the realities of incomplete justice to those foreign to me and acknowledge my own family member’s contribution to discrimination in the not so distant past. If only I had the courage in the moment that question left the official’s mouth to ask him to do the same.

To address that we have all been complicit in allowing the past to impede into the future and by merely admitting this sentiment allows for instigation of growth and progressive action. As a new wave of feminism sweeps Ireland, it should not be lost on anyone that the treatment of women in the Magdalene laundries is similar to the repression of women’s bodily autonomy today.

To simply ‘get over it’ would require transitional justice to be paid in full and not a conditional response to public outcry. To successfully ‘get over it’ the same issues dressed in different garments shouldn’t resurface. Whether it be race or sex, the mistreatments of the past will always reappear if not truly handled with careful consideration.

As the airwaves fill daily with new stories of African Americans being severely mistreated for the colour of their skin, my heart is always reminded that this is not isolated in progressive America but a consequence of prolonged, conditioned racism to which those who benefit from such discrimination greet with indifference. Similarly, Magdalene laundries and abortion are linked in Ireland and should be considered a consequence of prolonged, conditioned sexism.

Although the weather maybe undeniably different, the political mistreatment of vulnerable populations parallels each other in their very ignorance to the consequences of just ‘getting over something’ in juxtaposition of tactful transitional justice.

Although the air in Ireland will also be infiltrated with wind chill and the incessant heat of Alabama will be a staple of the climate, does inequality have to be?

Ashley Perry is an alumni of the University College of Dublin Human Rights MSc program. She is currently working for ‘Reclaiming Self’, an advocacy organization geared towards promoting survivors’ rights of industrial schools. She is also obtaining a MA in International Law and Diplomacy at the American University of Paris. You can follow Ashley on Twitter @ashleyyperryy

A Magdalene laundry in the 1950s; Dr Martin McAleese with his report into Magdalene laundries in 2013

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner

Conall Ó Fátharta reports:

The Department of Justice failed to examine all available evidence when it wrongly refused some Magdalene laundry survivors access to redress payments.

Following an almost year-long investigation of the scheme, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has published a scathing assessment of the department’s administration of the scheme.

The department had refused several women access to redress, claiming they were not resident in one of the 12 institutions covered by the scheme.

However, the Ombudsman was provided with evidence that some of the Magdalene laundries were either physically linked to the units where the women lived, or were located on the same grounds as the Magdalen laundries and were, in reality, “one and the same institution”.

The report determined that the department gave “undue weight” to evidence supplied by the religious congregations and some of it had been requested and received by the department after the decision to exclude the women was made.

The report also said it was not evident “what weight, if any, was afforded to the testimony of the women and/or their relatives”.

Department of Justice ignored Magdalene redress evidence (Irish Examiner)

Previously: ‘Based On The Findings Of The McAleese Report’

The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

This afternoon.

In Geneva.

At the UN Committee Against Torture.

An Irish official from the Department of Justice, sitting next to Minister of State for Justice and Equality David Stanton (left), spoke to the committee about the report into the Magdalene laundries by former Senator Martin McAleese published on February 5, 2013.

He said:

I have to say at the start the Taoiseach’s apology and the findings of the McAleese report still stand. There’s no question of walking back from either.

“On the question of criminal abuse, I’ll start by saying that the department approved payments for 677 women and, as part of that process, there’s a lot of interaction between the individual women and the department. And only in two cases was a reference arose to the question of possible criminal abuse…”

It was quite rightly stated that a question of criminal abuse was not a specific term of reference for the McAleese committee. The chairperson did decide to look into the matter. He interviewed [inaudible] to determine if they had seen any sign that would indicate any abuse within the institution or whether doctors had treated any suspicious injuries and he got no indication from them.

He also looked at the question of unlawful imprisonment. There was never any legal basis for detaining a woman in a Magdalene laundry if she was an adult. And at the time, the age of majority in Ireland was 21. So that’s, any woman who was 21 or older, there’s no legal basis for their detention in a Magdalene institution.

A number of women, when interviewed by the chairman of the committee, did say that they were unsure of whether they were always free to leave and a smaller number of women who felt that they were being detained against their will but those particular cohort of women all came through the industrial schools and there was a provision in the act that governs those industrial schools that provided that a child committed to an industrial school could be subject to controls up the age of 21. So that there would be a legal basis for them being restricted, their liberty.

We have no reason to believe at this stage, that there is a body of evidence out there which was not looked at by the McAleese committee. But if there is evidence of criminal abuse that’s newly available, we would be happy to receive it from any source.

The McAleese committee did look for all relevant diocesan records and did inspect material from the Galway diocese. In addition, the Department of Justice itself, and separate to the committee, did receive material from the Galway dioceses, because it lists a number of individuals and that facilitated the granting of payments to those individuals because it proved that they were in that institution.

There are questions of sensitive personal data regarding the archives of the McAleese committee. A person who was in a Magdalene institution is entitled to access to religious records relating to her so any individual who wants to access records relating to them may have access to them.

There is no statute of limitations in Ireland for criminal offences. We are not aware of any civil action that has been taken in the Irish courts relating to a Magdalene institution and has failed because of the statute of limitations being envoked.

Moving on to the actual scheme itself, Judge Quirke recommended that only two criteria be applied for the question of eligibility for payment, under the scheme. That was one, the person was admitted to the, one of the specialised institutions and the second was they worked those in those specific institutions.

In that context the Government decided that persons should not benefit from two schemes with one exception. And this was an exception that was specifically recommended by Judge Quirke, it was a report and that is in relation to girls who were transferred from industrial schools to Magdalene laundries under the relevant legislation and the exception applies where the period up to the age of 18, so in period up to the age of 18, they’re eligible for possibly compensation, or payments, from either the Residential Institutions Redress scheme or the Magdalene scheme. But for the period over 18, it’s limited just to the Magdalene scheme.

The question of medical assistance abroad was mentioned. The provision and statutory provision has been provided for the provision of medical assistance in Ireland. But, obviously, that can’t be applied to other countries because we don’t have the jurisdiction over their medical system so the arrangement is done on an ad-hoc basis, individual basis, depending on which country they’re in, arrangements made on that basis.

Now that the majority of women have been identified and have been in and have been paid, there is work necessary to progress other matters and that includes the question of a memorial…


Felice D. Gaer, a member of the UN Committee Against Torture, above, recalled the words of the late Sir Nigel Rodley who addressed Irish officials in 2014.

She said:

He referred to your legacy of abuse and I’m going to quote him here: he said it was ‘quite a collection’. Quite a collection and his view was, he said it is time the Irish state stopped it’s automatic response to every scandal, being to first deny, then delay, then lie, cover-up and, eventually are forced to throw some money at it and hope it will go away.

“Now, this is a surprisingly sharp omment from him and I only bring it up at the end now because first I wanted to honour his memory but recalling this, I also wanted to recall that when we reviwed Ireland the first time, in 2011, Mr Shatter [former Justice Minister Alan Shatter] came in and his response to the question of what was happening with the Magdalene laundries was to say that the, this was something that happened long ago, that the girls…and it was only by, that everybody had gone there with consent.

“And I’m glad to hear today that the position of the Government has changed on that position.”

Watch today’s proceedings live here

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

Omission To Prey


Martin McAleese with McAleese Inquiry into Magdalene laundries in February 2013

Further to the 2002 indemnity deal signed between then Minister for Education Dr Michael Woods and 18 congregations which capped the congregations’ abuse liability at €128million.

And last week’s Comptroller and Auditor General report which shows the congregations have paid just 13% of the €1.5billion compensation fund for victims of abuse who were residents of religious institutions.

And the McAleese Inquiry into the Magalene laundries which was chaired by Martin McAleese and published on Tuesday, February 5, 2013.

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner.

Conall Ó Fátharta writes:

A religious order that ran two Magdalene Laundries told the Government that its decision not to contribute any money to the redress scheme for survivors was based on the findings of the McAleese Report.

…To date, the four orders that ran Magdalene Laundries — the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity — have refused to contribute any money to the redress scheme set up in 2013 to compensate women.

The McAleese committee had no remit to investigate allegations of torture or other criminal offences that occurred in the laundries.

However, the Government in its August 2013 letter to the UN Committee against Torture said that, based on the McAleese committee’s interviewing of 118 ex-residents, “no factual evidence to support allegations of systematic torture or ill-treatment of a criminal nature in these institutions was found”.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show the Government wrote to the orders in February 2013 asking them to formally contribute to the redress fund. It wrote again in January 2014.

All four orders stated they would not contribute any money to the scheme.

Regional leader of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Sr Sheila Murphy responded on three occasions to then justice minister Alan Shatter stating its decision not to contribute was made after examining the findings of the McAleese Report.


On February 7, 2013:

Conor Ryan, in the Irish Examiner, reported:

The four religious orders who established and ran the for-profit laundries have substantial assets and it’s for this reason that the Justice For Magdalenes group (JFM) are arguing that the €296m made in property deals during the boom by these four orders must form part of a redress package. Many of the sites the orders haven’t sold and hold on their balance sheets continue to raise revenue by selling services to the State.

Three of the four orders that ran the laundries have earned €86m from the HSE from services provided on these sites in the past six years up to last year.

Previously: Did Your Nan Leave Money To The Nuns?

Religious orders rebuffed appeal for clerical abuse redress payout (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner, March 14, 2017)

Substantial assets, but no more cash for redress (Conor Ryan, Irish Examiner, February 7, 2013)

The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

0006f72d-64290289526Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 12.40.25

From top: A Magdalene Laundry in the 1950s; Nuala Ní Mhuircheartaigh (Department of Foreign Affairs), adviser to Martin McAleese in his role investigating State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries; Enda kenny during the leaders’ debate on Tuesday night

Also known as Opus Dei.

On Tuesday night, towards the end of the Prime Time Leaders’ Debate on RTÉ, presenter Miriam O’Callaghan asked the leaders what decision they regretted the most in their public life – political or otherwise.

When it came to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader said:

“Well I regret a number but I would say that, maybe, to have been able to do things earlier but then that didn’t come my way. Like, that’s why I was happy to speak out about the sexual abuse in Cloyne, that’s why I was happy to do, to be moved by the tears of the Magdalene women, that’s why I was happy to deal with the people in Priory Hall, and that’s why I think it was important to be able to join the, join with the many hundreds of thousands who were able to provide freedom and relief for so many people in the marriage equality referendum. I had regrets about not being able to do things about those earlier but, when its come my way, we’ve been happy to work with others in delivering on that responsibility.”

Further to this.

Oireachtas Retort has dedicated their Election Day post to the survivors of the Magdalene laundries and symphysiotomy with pieces written by Claire McGettrick, of Justice For Magdalenes, and Marie O’Connor, of Survivors of Symphysiotomy.

Oireachtas Retort writes:

You will find no clearer example of how brute uncaring force, casually demeaning people over decades is hardwired into the DNA of this state.

The cold indignity visited upon these women is multi-layered. The complicity and indifference that fuelled these crimes is not confined to the past but persists in the decisions we make in the ballot box today.”

In the post, Ms McGettrick reminds readers that, as the UN found the McAleese Report’s investigation to be neither prompt, independent nor thorough, it called for the Irish government to set up an independent inquiry.

But the government rejected the UN’s claim stating that because McAleese didn’t find evidence to “support allegations of systematic torture or ill treatment of a criminal nature in these institutions”, there would be no independent inquiry.

Further to this, Ms McGettrick writes:

“Are we to believe that the Taoiseach’s tearful apology [on February 19, 2013] was as a result of a ‘road to Damascus’ moment, or was it a political decision, designed to make the Magdalene problem go away? The experiences of survivors in contact with our organisation since the apology would suggest that unfortunately, it was the latter.”

“In June 2013, Mr Justice Quirke published The Magdalen Commission Report and while the financial element of the ex gratia scheme fell far short of what survivors deserve, we nonetheless welcomed it, in recognition of the other recommended benefits and services, particularly the establishment of a Dedicated Unit and the provision of an enhanced medical card which would provide access to ‘the full range of services currently enjoyed’ by HAA Card holders. We were pleased when the government announced that it would accept all of Judge Quirke’s recommendations.”

“...It is now three years since the apology, and the trust of Magdalene survivors has been seriously undermined, as the government has tried to cut corner after corner on its implementation of the ex gratia scheme. Survivors are still awaiting the establishment of a Dedicated Unit, a measure that should have been put in place immediately and not after the women have had to navigate the Ex Gratia Scheme alone. Some survivors have difficulty in proving lengths of stay because of the religious orders’ poor record keeping, yet incredibly, the government affords greater weight to the religious orders’ contentions than survivor testimony.”

“The healthcare provisions as outlined in the RWRCI Guide do not provide Magdalene survivors with the same range of drugs and services made available to HAA cardholders.”

“…Earlier this week a vulnerable Magdalene survivor phoned to say she had spent 17 hours on a drip in a chair in a crowded A&E. This same woman shed tears of happiness in the Dáil on the night of the apology. She phoned me the next day, concerned about the Taoiseach – ‘the poor man was very upset’ she said. Three years later however, she feels completely hoodwinked.”

She read Appendix G of Judge Quirke’s report and signed away her right to sue the State based on the legitimate expectation that she would receive a comprehensive healthcare suite. She certainly expected better than 17 hours in A&E.”

Election Day 2016 (Oireachtas Retort)

Previously: Three Years Ago Today


The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

He Did The State Some Service

Watch the debate in full here

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.39.28

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Citywest Hotel Dublin at the weekend

“Easter 1916 was a cold and passionate dawn, for a new Ireland. In 100 years we have built on the new day the Rising leaders gave us. We founded a new state, we declared a Republic, we joined the European Union. At long last, we put our children first and respected the Magdelene women. We made marriage equal. It is that sense of generosity, compassion, strength, and imagination that will be the making of us as a people, a nation.”

Enda Kenny speaking at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the weekend.

In response, Claire McGettrick, co-founder of the Justice For Magdalene Research project tweeted:

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.51.48

In addition, readers may wish to recall a post from 2014, based on a BBC report about then 83-year-old Mary Merritt who spent 14 years in the High Park magdalene laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin.

It was reported that Ms Merritt told former Senator Martin McAleese – author of the McAleese Report into the magdalene laundries – about how, one day, she broke a window and ran away from the laundry. She went to a priest and begged for help. The priest raped her before giving her sixpence. The gardaí then brought her back to the laundry. Ms Merritt became pregnant as a result of the rape. Her daughter, Carmel, was taken by the nuns and put up for adoption. Ms Merritt didn’t see her daughter again for another 40 years.

Ms Merritt’s testimony of her rape was not included in the McAleese Report.

September 2015: Justice for Magdalenes Research Submissions to UN Human Rights Committee and Committee on the Elimnation of Discrimination Against Women (JFM)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

‘Apologise To Me Before I Die’

Waiver Away


Read Enda Kenny’s speech in full here

Sam Boal/Rollingnews