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Breaking All Chains
Setting The Captives Free
Magdalene Sister Slaves
This is the complete Daily Mail article.
Ireland finally says sorry to the 10,000 'Magdalene Sister slaves'
of its Catholic workhouses who were locked up and brutalised by nuns
PUBLISHED: 18:13, 5 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:38, 6 February 2013
Comment: If we can do this to our own, what do we do to our enemies? – p.j.
Women who had their childhoods ‘stolen away’, locked up in Catholic-run workhouses
received a qualified apology from the Irish government yesterday.
Over a period of 70 years, an estimated 10,000 were sent to the ‘Magdalene laundries’
to carry out unpaid manual labour under the supervision of nuns.
Some were sent because they were the children of unmarried mothers,
others for crimes as minor as not paying a train ticket.
Slaved: An estimated 10,000 were sent to work for no remuneration
in 'Magdalene laundries' over a period of 70 years
Anger: Magdalene survivors Marina Gambold, left, and Mary Smyth,
were sent to the laundries where they were were forced to work without pay.
At a press conference in the Handel Hotel,
Dublin, they rejected the Irish government's apology
Demands: Survivors of the Catholic-run institutions have asked for a fuller
and more frank admission from government and the religious orders involved
Incredibly the last of the ten laundries, which washed clothes and linen
for major hotel groups, the Irish armed forces and even the brewer Guinness,
was in operation until 1996. They were established in 1922.
Irish prime minister Enda Kenny apologised for the stigma and conditions
saying they were a product of a ‘harsh and uncompromising Ireland’.
The taoiseach expressed his sympathies with survivors and the families
of those who died but stopped short of a formal apology.
His words drew scorn from victims’ groups, who insisted the institutions
were worse than prison and demanded a much stronger statement.
The move follows an 18-month inquiry chaired by senator Martin McAleese
which found one in four of the women sent to the laundries
had been sent by the state.
Mr Kenny said: ‘To those residents who went into the Magdalene laundries
from a variety of ways, 26 per cent from state involvement,
I’m sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment.’
Pain: Mary Smyth (left) and Maureen Sullivan (right) are overcome during
the press conference held by Magdalene Survivors Together
Mary Smyth, Steven O'Riordan, and Maureen Sullivan were among the
members of the group who rejected an apology from Taoiseach Enda Kenny
(L-R) Marina Gambold, Mary Smyth, Steven O'Riordan, Maureen Sullivan
and Diane Croghan of Magdalene Survivors Together hold copies
of the Government report
But he added the report found no evidence of sexual abuse in the laundries,
that 10 per cent of inmates were sent by their families, and that 19 per cent
entered of their own volition.
Survivors quickly rejected his apology, and demanded a fuller and more
frank admission from government and the religious orders involved.
Maureen Sullivan, 60, of Magdalene Survivors Together, and the youngest
known victim, said:
‘He is the taoiseach of the Irish people, and that is not a proper apology.’
She was 12 when taken from her school and put in the Good Shepherd
Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, County Wexford, because her father
had died and mother remarried.
Miss Sullivan said she was told it would further her education,
but she never saw her schoolbooks again.
A Council worker shines a torch over debris on the floor of the corridor in
the now derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Laundry in Dublin
Chilling: The interior of the now derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity
Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott St in Dublin's north inner city
An inquiry found 2,124 of those detained in institutions such as the now
derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Laundry in Dublin
(pictured) were sent by the authorities
For 48 years she says she has been haunted by memories of a lost childhood
and slave labour and is demanding a full apology from the government and
religious orders for stealing her education, name, identity and life.
‘I feel that they are still in denial, but other parts of this report clearly state t
hat we were telling the truth,’ she said.
By day she worked in the laundry, was fed bread and dripping, and then made
sweaters or rosary beads before bedtime. ‘It was long, hard tedious work,’ she said.
‘I remember being hidden in a tunnel when the school inspectors came.
I can only assume this was because I should not have been working in the laundry.’
An estimated 10,000 young Irish girls were sent to the laundries where
they were were forced to work without pay and were subjected to a strict regime
at the hands of the nuns who ran the institutions
At the weekends, she was forced to clean the floors of the local church instead
of having time off to play.
‘How come all this was taken from me?’ she said.
‘The nuns have destroyed my life and they never allowed me to develop as a young girl.’
'PRISONS FOR THE DISAPPEARED'
Set up in the 19th century as refuges for prostitutes, the Magdalene Laundries
became prisons for the 'disappeared'.
Orphans with nowhere else to go, single girls who found themselves pregnant
and hence abandoned in a morally repressive state, children whose parents
could no longer afford to keep them and those judged by priests or the religious
to be in 'moral danger' because they were too pretty or flirtatious.
Women were forced into Magdalene laundries for a crime 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 as opposed to murder and infanticide.
Another survivor, Mary Smyth, also 60, said she was forced to follow in the steps
of her mother who had also been one of the Magdalene women
when she became pregnant.
She said she was treated like a slave and had her dignity,
identity and life taken from her.
‘My name was changed, my hair was chopped off, all my possessions were taken
from me,’ she said. ‘I didn’t eat for three weeks. I wanted to die.’
Miss Smyth has described her time in the Good Shepherd Convent
in Sunday’s Well, Cork, as Hell and revealed she was afraid to have children
as an adult in case she was locked up.
‘It was horrendous and inhumane. It was worse than any prison,’ she added.
‘It was soul destroying, it will never ever leave me,’ she said.
Senator McAleese’s inquiry found women were forced into Magdalene laundries
for minor offences such as theft and vagrancy as opposed to major crimes
such as infanticide.
Despite the stigma of being known as Maggies – a slang term for a prostitute –
only a small number of the women were sent to them for prostitution.
In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture called on the Irish government
to set up an inquiry into the treatment of women in the laundries.
The McAleese inquiry spoke to more than 100 women and 40 per cent spent
more than a year incarcerated.
In 2002, a film titled The Magdalene Sisters, written and directed by Peter Mullan,
was released telling the story of three girls who were sent to 'Magdalene laundries'.
The film's director initially said that he had been inspired to undertake the project
as the victims had never been given closure.
A plaque dedicated to Magdalane Laundry survivors in St Stephens Green
Between 1922 and 1996 an estimated 10,000 young Irish girls were sent
to the laundries where they were were forced to work without pay
Plight: The Magdalene Sisters starring Dorothy Duffy (second front),
Nora-Jane Noone (second back) and Anne-Marie Duff (back)
told the harrowing story of three girls placed in one of the laundries
A scene from The Magdalene Sisters in which one of the girls is humiliated
in front of a nun.
The film's director initially said that he had been inspired to undertake
the project as the victims had never been given closure
A DAY IN THE LIFE: LAUNDRY SURVIVOR RECALLS THE TOUGH REGIME In a 2011
interview for the Irish Mail, Sarah Williams who spent two years working
in two different Magdalene Laundries gave a harrowing account
of life in the institutions:
Rising at 6am the girls, heads shrouded in black veils,
were marched to Mass in the cold convent.
Breakfast of cold watery porridge with tea and bread followed at 7am before
returning to the chapel for a second Mass.
Then it was off to the laundry to wash, boil, mangle, dry, iron and fold.
They were allowed one break for soup before 6pm.
At 7.30pm the girls, now locked into their tiny cells furnished with only a bucket
and an iron bed, would be handed another mug of soup, frequently so cold that
they'd try to heat it on the pipes in their rooms.
Recreation was a half hour listening to the radio after work.
Work was conducted either in total silence or while singing hymns
or reciting decades of the rosary.
At nights, the miserable girls cried themselves to sleep.
Simple offences like neglecting to wear the institutional hat or laughing
would result in a belting on the head with a bunch of heavy keys by an irate nun.
'Every night I cried and cried,' recalls Sarah. 'I could hear the traffic on the road
outside and sometimes I'd climb up at the iron barred window
to see if I could see anything of the street.
'Our only exercise was half an hour walking in twos outside in the yard.'
The nuns' authority was absolute, the girls had to ask permission even
to go to the bathroom and if a girl stepped out of line,
she was locked in her room on a diet of bread and water for days on end.
'We didn't work on Sundays so we were allowed to write letters
which were then read by the nuns.
I frequently wrote to my aunt begging her to come and get me
but I don't think she ever got my letters.
Any letters we got were read out in public by the nuns.
We never got them into our own hands.
'Once a month we were allowed visitors but my only visitors were the women
from the Legion of Mary who'd remark that I was being looked after very well.'
By Peter James from: www.peterjamesx.com