UK & World News
Magdalene Laundries: Ireland PM Apologises
Ireland's prime minister has apologised to thousands of women sent to Catholic-run workhouses where they were subjected to a regime of hard work and prayer.
The Magdalene laundries started in the late 1700s as places to rehabilitate so-called "fallen" women.
A committee - led by Martin McAleese, the husband of former Irish president Mary McAleese - was set up 18 months ago to investigate exactly what role the Irish state played in the institutions between 1922 and 1996.
It found that more than 2,100 women, more than a quarter of those who were held in the Magdalene laundries for whom records survived, were sent directly by the state.
The Irish government has always previously denied direct involvement in the system, which was run by four religious congregations: Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Good Shepherds, The Sisters of Mercy and the Religious Sisters of Charity.
But as the report was published, Irish PM Enda Kenny said: "To those resident who went into the Magdalene laundries from a variety of ways, 26% from state involvement, I'm sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment."
He said action should have been taken before to clear the names and reputations of the women put to work in the laundries.
"That the stigma, that the branding together of the residents, all 10,000 needs to be removed and should have been removed long before this and I'm really sorry that that never happened, and I regret that never happened."
Women were forced into Magdalene laundries for crimes as minor as not paying for a train ticket, the report found. The majority of those incarcerated were there for minor offences such as theft and vagrancy. A small number of the women were there for prostitution.
The Magdalene Survivors Together group quickly dismissed the prime minister's apology.
"He is the Taoiseach of our country, he is the Taoiseach of the Irish people, and that is not a proper apology," Maureen Sullivan said.
Mary Smyth said she endured inhumane conditions in a laundry, which she said was worse than being in prison.
"I will go to the grave with what happened. It will never ever leave me," she said.
Survivors told the committee the atmosphere in the institutions as "cold, with a rigid and uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer, with many instances of verbal censure, scoldings or even humiliating put-downs".
The report found that many of the women sent to the laundries went there after becoming involved with the courts or police.
Government inspectors routinely carried out checks at the institutions and the state paid welfare and other payments to women in laundries.
However, the report also noted that none of the 118 women that spoke to the committee made any allegations of sexual abuse against those who ran the laundries and compared them favourably to the Industrial School system in which physical punishment and abuse was "prevalent".
"Some of the women the committee met stated clearly that the laundries were their only refuge in times of great personal difficulty," the report said.
More than 10,000 women, aged from nine to 89, were sent to eight of the ten laundries from which records were available between 1992 and 1996.
Advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) said it was aware of at least 988 women who were buried in laundry plots in cemeteries across Ireland, meaning they stayed in the institutions until death. The inquiry could confirm only 879.
Dr Katherine O'Donnell, director of the Women's Study Centre at University College, Dublin, said: "The state sent girls and women into the Magdalene laundry system through courts and mother-and-baby homes.
"They never checked on those girls and women to see if in fact they ever left."
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what do you think?
I saw a film about the laundries and it looked no different from a workhouse. The pregnant mothers were made to work until they went into labour. Absolutely disgusting. And the sexual,abuse ray went in by the preists it whatever the catholics call them was just as bad and the nuns let it go on
I saw it too! Disgusting!
And the moral of this story is ; if you are going to do wrong, dont get caught.
another shameful story of inhumane abuse
Grrrr! That's the catholic faith for you! Cruel vindictive, perverted! Bit late for an apology! Never got the idea of that! Climb into a confessional box, all sins absolved! .......and they frowned on witchcraft!
Religion as a whole but I agree the Catholics seem to be the worst !!!!
It scares me how unforgiving and cruel this religion is, russell
What I don't get the bible was written many years after said events. People can change and twist things to their on agenda. And the people who are supposed to be the most trusted are the most corrupted and most nasty !!
Sounds like my place of work except we don't have prayers.
I also saw the film The magdalane sisters, an apology now is too little too late. What about the many unfortunate girls/women who were treated no better than animals they were shunned by their familys for becoming pregnant . They were humilated, abused mentally and physically treated as slaves , denied basic human rights before during and after there pregnancy. they had to give care and look after their child and when the child reached the age of 3years old were made to watch their child be taken from them never to be seen again,this happened in a place called Bessboro, Cork. This so called religious establishment was run by nuns who showed no compassion to any of the girls and their predicament instead they were punished unmercifully. ALL IN THE NAME OF GOD !!!!!!!! I know this to be true and it is well documented in a book The Light in the Window, written by June Goulding , who was the midwife who worked in this home for 9 months in 1951 and was so appalled as to the way these girls were treated made a promise to write this book.
a very peaceful religion
As opposed to islam?
As a lapsed Catholic and you wonder why ALL religions are cruel ,they brainwash fear, bigotry and lies.Look to your neighbours for salvation mostly good people with or without religion you will find kindness.
The film about this totally broke my heart made me cry and utterly enraged me !