Tag Archives: Magdalene Laundries

A Magdalene laundry in Ireland in the 1950s


Daniel Boffey, in The Guardian, reports:

Nineteen women are suing a Dutch monastery and its Catholic order over claims they were subjected to forced labour and abuse by nuns between 1951 and 1979 during periods of virtual imprisonment as children or young adults.

The case against the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, which operates in 70 countries, concerns the treatment of women, aged 11 to 21 at the time, who had been placed in the nuns’ care by the courts or at the request of their parents or guardians.

The women, who are now in their 70s and 80s, say they were forced to work in laundries and sewing and ironing rooms under threat of punishment, against their will and without wages, for the order or for the benefit of outside organisations including the Dutch royal house.

…At least 15,000 girls and young women, accused of falling into “licentiousness”, were held in confinement and forced to work in the laundry and sewing rooms of the Catholic order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in the Netherlands between 1860 and the early 1980s.

There you go now.

Women sue Dutch Catholic order over forced labour claims (The Guardian)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

‘Based On The Findings Of The McAleese Report’

Not Forgotten

Just Saying No

Magdalene survivor Mary Cavner (O’Sullivan) has been awarded a five-figure settlement after she was forced to do unpaid work at the Good Shepherd Convent (top) for nearly six years.

The mother of five spent years trying to convince the State she worked at the Good Shepherd Convent in Co Cork, from the age of 11 after her dad’s death.

The Government formally apologised to all of the women confined to the Laundries in 2013 and set up a redress scheme for the victims.

But Mary, who now lives in England, was denied compensation after the Irish authorities claimed she was at St Finbarr’s Industrial School which was not listed as part of this scheme [see below].

The Ombudsman ruled Mary is eligible for the redress scheme and awarded her the cash.

Magdalene Laundry survivor awarded five-figure settlement for years of unpaid work (The Irish Mirror)


“They held me there and worked me until I was nearly 18. We weren’t allowed to talk or associate with anybody else which affected me throughout my life.

“To then be told that I was lying was devastating. I had never mentioned what happened to me to my husband or my children, so it took all of my courage to admit what I had been through and then they called me a liar.

“My experience in the laundry left me unable to communicate properly. I have had really low points as they have made me live this again and to be accused of not telling the truth made me feel rejected.

“I am speaking out as I want to tell all of the women who went through this but don’t have a voice to stand up and fight.

“This was never about getting compensation as whatever money they had given me it wouldn’t give me my lost childhood back.

“This was about holding those who made me stay in that laundry and work throughout my childhood to account.”

Mary Cavner (O’Sullivan)

Magdalene survivor awarded settlement for unpaid work (RTÉ)

From top: Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil in February 2013 when he apologised to women who had been incarcerated in Magdalene homes; Irish Examiner journalist Conall Ó Fátharta


Journalist with The Irish Examiner Conall Ó Fátharta tweeted his thoughts on the Magdalene redress scheme.

His sobering account follows separate previous reports by him detailing how 14 women who were sent from An Grianán training centre to work in Dublin’s High Park Magdalene laundry in the 1980s have yet to receive an offer of redress from the Department of Justice.

This delay, he reported, is on account of the department saying that the order which ran the laundry, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, claims it stopped sending women from An Ghrianán to the laundry in 1980.

But, Mr Ó Fátharta has pointed out, among other matters, that the department’s legal team has refused on three occasions to given the women’s legal team any evidence to support this claim and the High Court accepted, in 2017, that children worked at High Park into the 1980s.

Mr Ó Fátharta tweeted:

Related: Magdalene women seek minister’s help on redress (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

A Magdalene laundry in the 1950s

In fairness.

Yesterday: The Eighth Day Of Christmas

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

“The State Simply Doesn’t Get It”

“It’s Time For Magdalene Survivors’ Testimony To Be Accepted As ‘Evidence’”

‘It’s Difficult To Understand Why Nothing Was Done’

Open The Files

The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

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