Irish government apologises to thousands of 'fallen women' it sent to so-called Magdalene laundries

It is estimated that over 10,000 women passed through the laundries between 1922 and 1996

The Irish government has apologised to thousands of women it sent to so-called Magdalene laundries between 1922 and 1996.

The laundries were Catholic-run institutions for “morally troubled” or “fallen women”, terms used to imply sexual promiscuity and usually applied to young single mothers, initially to rehabilitate them back into society.

But the asylums were increasingly prison-like and included forced, unpaid labour. It is estimated that over 10,000 women passed through the laundries over the decades, with many forced to wash clothing and bedding for hotels and the Irish army.

As an inquiry found 2,124 of those detained in the institutions were sent by the authorities, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his sympathies with survivors and the families of those who have died.

“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.

More than a quarter of all official referrals were made by the state, an 18 month inquiry chaired by Senator Martin McAleese has found.

The inquiry identified five areas where there was direct state involvement in the detention of women in 10 laundries run by nuns.

* They were detained by courts, gardai, transferred by industrial or reform schools, rejected by foster families, orphaned, abused children, mentally or physically disabled, homeless teenagers or simply poor.

* Inspectors, known as “the suits” by the women, routinely checked conditions complied with rules for factories.

* Government paid welfare to certain women in laundries, along with payments for services.

* Women were also enabled to leave laundries if they moved to other state-run institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, county and city homes and in the company of police, probation, court or prison officers.

* The state also had a role in registering the death of a woman in a laundry.

Survivors have been campaigning for the last 10 years for an apology from state and church and a transparent compensation scheme.

Religious orders the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity ran laundries at Drumcondra and Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dun Laoghaire, the Religious Sisters of Charity in Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross.

The last laundry, Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin's north inner city, closed in 1996.

Justice for Magdalenes, an advocacy group, said it is aware of at least 988 women who are buried in laundry plots in cemeteries across Ireland and therefore must have stayed for life. The inquiry could only certify 879.

The Taoiseach said action should have been taken before to clear the names and reputations of the women put to work in the institutions.

“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,” Mr Kenny said.

“I'm sorry that this release of pressure and understanding of so many of those women was not done before this, because they were branded as being the fallen women, as they were referred to in this state.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor