UK & World News
Magdalene Laundries: Victims Await Report
A report into the running of the Magdalene laundries in Ireland is due to be published.
The religious-run institutions started in the late 1700s as places to rehabilitate so-called "fallen" women.
It is estimated that around 30,000 women, mainly single mothers and teenage girls, were placed in the laundries to work.
There were 10 Magdalene laundries across Ireland and the last one closed its doors in 1996.
In the years since, women who lived in the laundries have spoken out about the harsh and gruelling work they had to carry out.
They also detailed horrendous physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the religious congregations which ran the workhouses.
The Irish government has always denied that the state was involved in the operation of the Magdalene laundries, but survivors' accounts claim the opposite.
A committee was set up 18 months ago to investigate exactly what role the Irish state played in the institutions between 1922 and 1996.
It was led by Martin McAleese, the husband of former Irish president Mary McAleese.
The plight of the women inspired the film The Magdalene Sisters in 2002.
Steven O'Riordan now represents some of the women after making a documentary about them.
"I would believe their families and wider society were fooled into thinking that these women or children would get a better education if they went into these institutions," he said.
"But what materialised in my own opinion is that they became a money-making scheme and these women became victims of slave labour."
The Magdalene laundries were run by four religious congregations: Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Good Shepherds, The Sisters of Mercy and the Religious Sisters of Charity.
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."
Many of the Magdalene women have since died.
Those who remain, and their families, say they have been ignored in Ireland, while other abuses within the Catholic church and state-run institutions have been recognised, apologised for and compensation issued.
The report may give the Magdalene women the voice and, in turn, the apology they have longed for.
Solicitor Leslie Keegan is representing some of the laundries' survivors and believes the Irish government is accountable.
"There is irrefutable evidence of the involvement of the state in the confinement of these women," he said. "So absolutely the state should take responsibility."
what do you think?
Why do we hear about people claiming money for this that or the other when the slightest scrap of moral fibre would prevent these claims?
Feel for those poor women. Some of the nuns were sadistic individuals, but the whole system itself was cruel. The Catholic church has commited dreadful crimes for over 2000 years : from the murder of pagans, to the murderous crusades against the Gnostic christians of southern France, the Crusades against Muslims in Palestine, the burning of witches/wizards, the 'Holy' campaign against the first Protestants, the attempt to theologically write Mary Magdelen out of Jesus' life and the spitefull policy of not allowing stillborn babies a place in the graveyard. The list goes on and on. Shamefull.
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The saddest part is that a lot of woman and girls lost their lives a long time ago bcause of this abhorant situation an will never see justice done for their wasted unhappy lives x