‘Who’d Have The Likes Of You?’




The former Donnybrook laundry compound in Dublin 4 (top) is currently up for sale (centre) and is expected to sell for around €3million.

The Sisters of Charity ran the laundry from 1883 until 1992 when the order sold it to a private owner who, in turn, ran it as a commercial laundry until 2006.

A former resident, who didn’t wish to disclose her name, spoke to RTÉ journalist Brian O’Connell about the year she spent in the former Donnybrook magdalene laundry in the 1970s. Independent Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn was also interview.

The woman returned to the laundry with Mr O’Connell – her first time back at the laundry in around 40 years.

As they walked, she explained how she was in the Navan Road mother and baby home until she was two and a half, before living in several different Catholic-run institutions before eventually being sent to Donnybrook in her late teens.

After she left Donnybrook she didn’t really speak about the magdalene laundry until the Residential Institutions Redress Board got in contact with her.

“I wasn’t allowed in to talk to them [the redress board]. The solicitor talked to the redress board for me, which I was annoyed [about] because I wanted to go in and tell my story. And the way I was treated in the magdalene laundries, and in industrial schools, do you know what I mean? In the orphanage it was very bad, very bad. We were starving and we never got proper food to eat, not proper clothes. I never had proper jumpers, I used to darn all the jumpers.

“And my hair used to be shaved to the scalp. We used to rob the orchards, do you see, you know? And if you were caught robbing in the nun’s orchard, your hair would be shaved. I was locked into a press for three or four days without a bit to eat. That’s the truth, I wouldn’t tell you a lie.”

The woman was locked in the press because she robbed apples out of hunger.

She then described what life was like in the Donnybrook laundry.

[It was] torture, torture. The work in there, we were so tired at night going to bed, do you know what I mean? And then up at six or half six in the morning to scrub the floors… and then marched in to church for prayers. And then down to work again. You might get bread and dripping or bread and Stork margarine or a cup of cocoa for breakfast in the morning….They ruined our lives. On my deathbed I’ll be thinking about it. I’ll never forgive them [the orders].”

“We were never allowed to talk to each other, even in the dorms at night, we were never allowed to talk. We had no education, they took away my childhood, I was just traumatised. I got electric shock [treatment], I went to commit suicide when I came out, over the convents. I took an overdose of tablets and everything. Thinking back on all this, what had happened me: why my mother left me?”

The woman is still looking for her mother.

“I asked nuns where’s my mother. ‘Who’d have the likes of you’ – that’s what I was told.”

Listen back in full here


[Buyers] might well have included businessman Denis O’Brien, who has already assembled a valuable development portfolio in Donnybrook…

Magdalene site in Donnybrook on market for €3 million (Irish Times)

Pic: NewsFour.ie

58 thoughts on “‘Who’d Have The Likes Of You?’

  1. Donger

    What has been allowed to happen in this country is shameful. So much cruelty to children at the hands religious orders. These stories are so frequent they’re normal, they don’t shock anymore which is worrying. The church still has considerable power in this country-it’s baffling! From the school system to the church related booze laws in good Friday. When are we going to stand up and finally saw F right off?

    1. Rainy Day

      That’s what brain washing does for you…..if you educate someone from the age of 4 you have a hold on their brain and thoughts for a long time…in many cases for life.
      My nephew was in a school play recently which was staged for their grandparents…part of the lyrics of a song the kids sang was …”God made Grand Dad….God made Granny…”…. I uttered that this was crazy, a school shouldn’t be teaching what was clearly wrong…its 2016 etc. My parents – the grandparents – honestly couldn’t see what the problem was…..brainwashed…

    2. rugbyfan

      the chains of the catholic church have held this country down for so long. Spiritually and emotionally the damage is on a par with what the global financial crisis did to Ireland. Yet:

      Education time is eaten into in 6th class so kids can prepare for conformation
      RTE play the angelus
      you have to baptise a child to get them into a local primary school

      to name a few items…

  2. Rob_G

    [Buyers] might well have included businessman Denis O’Brien, who has already assembled a valuable development portfolio in Donnybrook…

    – seriously? This is not even remotely linked to the rest of the story.

        1. Kieran NYC

          Because it’s irrelevant and detracts from the point of the article.

          It’s a story about a woman’s horrific abuse at the hands of this institution. Then at the end they decide they can’t miss an opportunity to have a random pop at O’Brien who “might well have” thought about maybe considering buying the former site. With no evidence whatsoever other than it never hurts to have a pop at DO’B for clickbait. He “might well have” thought about anything. It’s a little exploitative of what the woman went through and gets into the tinfoil hat territory on DO’B when there’s so much genuinely crooked stuff he can actually be called on.

          Turning him into some boogeyman/supervillan isn’t helpful for the cause.

          1. Same old same old

            I like the really stylish way Anne demeans you by calling you KFC as well btw

            Pearls before swine

          2. Anne

            I don’t see how it’s exploitative of the woman and I don’t see how exactly it’s a pop at DOB.

            “With no evidence whatsoever other than it never hurts to have a pop at DO’B for clickbait. He “might well have” thought about anything. ”
            They’re referencing an article on the Times.(italics Kieran, italics)
            Ask them for evidence.


            From the article – ‘ These might well have included businessman Denis O’Brien, who has already assembled a valuable development portfolio in Donnybrook.’

            There’s much more than that article to criticise DOB about.

            Personally I think the women and children whose sweat and tears went into these places should be rewarded from the sale of these premises, not billionaires who want to exploit a housing crisis.. but you tell me that’s exploitative of these women, to even link to an article mentioning anything.
            The stupid is strong with you sometimes it really is.. no offence KFC.

  3. Daisy Chainsaw

    Pure evil perpetrated against innocents by those supposedly chosen by god to be his representatives on Earth. And there are those who will defend this evil.

    I hope this lady and the thousands of victims of religious orders find some kind of peace in there lives.

  4. joj

    Theres no getting away from the fact that the Catholic church operated concentration camps where many women were worked to death. Any other organisation would have been shut down with such revelations and yet they still operate 90% of our schools, sure the people in charge may have changed but the structure hasn’t.

    1. Same old same old

      It’s just the usual Bodger clickbait Nice Jung Man.
      boredsheet having cornered the market in cat video now are setting their sites (!) on the tabloid anguish angle

      1. Ricky Ricardo

        How is reporting on rampant and state-sanctioned human rights abuses taking a “tabloid anguish angle”, pray tell?

        1. Same old same old

          It was neither rampant nor state sanctioned but don’t let those inconvenient facts staunch the gushing of your bleeding heart.

  5. phil

    Well this is a Catholic country , maybe some day the final 30% of the population will realize how dangerous it is not to keep a close eye on the religious , I dont know which is worse , the orders and lay people who raped and abused vulnerable citizens in this republic , or the pious once a week to mass crowd who continue to protect these monsters by using the invisible hand in the Civil service, Gardai, courts and schools and lashings of apathy

    1. Panty Christ

      It is not a catholic country. The army Chaplin reading a prayer outside the GPO the other day was quite offensive in my opinion. Stick your republic up your jumper.

      1. phil

        I was being facetious, of course its not a catholic country , but we keep getting told it is , and its the last thing you will see around these parts , is christian behavior, unless its for the accused , then the religious have no problem demanding their civil (secular) rights …

    1. joj

      ‘This is a catholic country’ -something hardline catholics say.
      No, it is a democracy, the lines referencing god in the constitution are mostly overwritten by amendments ensuring equal rights, although there is plenty of discrimination allowed with regards to religious institutes running education, but this applies sadly to all schools, be they protestant or muslim

      1. phil

        @joj , kinda, this country is a Republic , and we use Democracy to administer this Republic …

  6. Vote Rep #1

    Without wanting to take away from the piece Bodger, the first pic is of apartments in Irishtown as opposed to the old laundry in Donnybrook.

    1. Owen C

      Oh thank you. That part really confused me. Could have swore i walked by the one in Irishtown a couple of weeks back on the way to Aviva.

      1. RT

        Slightly off topic, as a one time tenant of the area anywhere on or just off Londonbridge Road was deemed “Sandymount” on Daft, etc.

  7. Anne

    So what’s the going rate for your childhood, for years of slave labour? What sort of compensation do people get for that? A million/two/three ?

    “Who’d have the likes of you”..
    The nuns obviously thought they had the answer to that opened ended question.. miserable psychos.

  8. Paul

    Where were the parents in all this. The great and the good of Ireland. Let us take a collective responsibility .

    1. newsjustin

      Sssssshhhhh Paul.

      People who found themselves in religious run institutions in Ireland in the 20th Century just happened to find themselves there. Mostly they were kidnapped by marauding nuns.

      The state, their families, my grandparents and parents and yours have no responsibility for all this. Nobody knew that these institutions existed, nobody knew that they were unpleasant places and nobody, especially not doctors, guards and other visitors knew about what went on.

      1. ahjayzis

        Let’s say it together, the responsorial psalm;

        “Everyone’s at fault. Thusly, no one is at fault”
        Reponse: “It’s a systems failure, begorrah”
        “Go in peace, we all partied.”

        It takes a special zealot level of devotion to get all ‘whataboutty” around the torture and starvation of children. Only religion can strip someone’s basic humanity that thoroughly.

        To get Godwiny for a moment, your comment is directly analogous to decrying the trials of concentration camp guards after the war on the excuse that sure god everyone know what was going on. I draw a line between people living in sight distance of a crime and people committing the actual crime.

        Sometimes things are still wrong even when they’re not a secret.

        1. Same old same old

          Exactly what I thought – I guess in your case even a stopped clock is right twice a day huh?

        2. newsjustin

          Yes. Some things are still wrong even when they weren’t a secret. And allowing abuse to go unchecked is one such thing. As is restricting the blame to just some of the actors and pretending that we would have marched into this institutions and freed people, Moses like, from their captivity, if only we were around back then. We wouldn’t have because, like our parents and grandparents, we’d have accepted the line that these people were being “helped” and it was the best thing for them.

          1. ahjayzis

            If I beat a child, rape a woman, murder a man, say.

            And same old same old hears that that’s what I did – not seen it, mind, hears about it.

            Are we the same?

            Are we the same if I happen to run the school his kids go to, provide medical care to his parents, have government, all of politics and an ahjayzis-fearing docile public in my back pocket with a compliant media to only report the good I do?

          2. ahjayzis

            And while we’re at it – if the real crime at the time was no one stepping in to stop it, to put manners on the child-raping, women enslaving, inhuman church at the centre of it all – what does that make you, Broadsheets biggest champion of sectarian priest-run education after all we’ve learned? Their track record and you’re happy to fight for their right to control the schools we all built and paid for?

            The church raised the people of Ireland to never question the church, not only do you lay no blame at their door, you want to continue that practice, when you’ve just pointed out that that indoctrinated deference on behalf of society was the root cause of decades of misery for thousands of innocent people.

          3. newsjustin

            The “real crime” was not not stepping in to stop it. That is just an additional mark on society at the time. The guilt for this in no way reduced the guilt of anyone who harmed or abuse anyone.

            It must be one or the other with you, huh? It could never be the case that fault also lies with people who facilitated and stood by a shoddy and cruel system?

      2. Same old same old

        Lol it takes a special kind of Internet weirdo to transfer the job of taking responsibility on to an entire country
        Bravo sir

          1. ahjayzis

            Simple question. Do you place any blame on the hierarchy and institutional church at all?

            I mean, the whole “its not my fault those kids got raped, starved and beaten, you shouldn’t have given them to me!” line doesn’t really work when they market themselves as the Jesus team. Jesus was a pretty nice guy, good with children, talked about love a lot.

          2. Janet, I ate my avatar

            Who made a child out of wedlock such a terrible crime/sin even your own family wouldn’t or couldn’t stand by you and your bastard ?

          3. newsjustin

            Ahjayzis – are you crazy? Of course the institutional church is to blame. As are individual institutions and orders.

            But any attempt to blame “the orders” totally for any and all abuse is a simplistic whitewash (which people claim the McAleese report was).

            Maybe, just maybe, the parents, grandparents, guards, judges, parish priests, and doctors who put or directed people into the care of religious run institutions have something to answer for.

      3. Nigel

        As if the complicity of people outside the orders who knew what was going on somehow excuses one ounce of cruelty and exploitation.

        1. newsjustin

          It doesn’t. But that complicity shouldn’t be ignored or whitewashed out of history.

          Or maybe stick with the “twas all the evil nuns and bishops fault” line.

  9. The People's Hero

    Isn’t it interesting the influence that God, religion and Catholicism in particular had over the past few days….

    How many times and in how many communities was the good lord Himself referred to during myriad Proclamation readings?

    And then, just because Jesus Freak Padraig Pearse felt like it, we use Easter Sunday as opposed to the actual date to commemorate….

    This is a Catholic country. It’s as insidious as the Sith (geddit?).

    All the horrors that occurred in the past and with reference to Galway a few years back could happen again if they thought they might get away with it.

    Iain Paisley was right. The Pope is the Anti-Christ….

  10. Baz

    Awful story, and one that was repeated up and down the country-I know because I worked for a charity who assisted applicants to the redress board. There may have been reasons why she did not get to speak to the board-there could have simply been an offer made without the prerequisite to give evidence.

    The real shame is that the board constantly took the line that simply being in a home or laundry was not abuse. That was one dogmatic line I could never agree with.

    Can anyone shed light on how much the orders have paid over to the state? It seems they church takes the view that running an institution is not evidence of abusing anyone..the heartless bastards. Christian values my foot-the only reason that any records of laundries or institutions survived is because there was money involved.

  11. Cromuel

    Time for French laïcité. We need a secular society, and a society based on kindness and humanity.

    Finding the mother – is there any scheme in Ireland to make a DNA database for this purpose only, not available to the snoops, whether they be insurance companies or coppers?

Comments are closed.