FaithWorld

Irish state held responsible for Magdalene Laundries run by Catholic nuns

February 6, 2013

(Mary Smyth who was born in a “Magdalene Laundry”, reacts during a “Magdalene Survivors Together” news conference in Dublin February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)

Many of the women and girls subjected to harsh discipline and unpaid work in Ireland’s now-notorious Magdalene Laundries were sent there by the Irish state, an official report said.

The laundries, run by Catholic nuns, have been accused of treating inmates like “slaves” for decades of the 20th century, imposing a regime of fear and prayer on girls sometimes put in their care for simply falling pregnant outside wedlock.

Irish governments had in the past denied blame, emphasising the laundries were private institutions, but the 1,000-page report concludes there was “significant state involvement”, with one in four inmates sent there via various arms of the state.

The laundries, depicted in the award-winning film “The Magdalene Sisters”, put 10,000 women and girls, as young as nine, through an uncompromising regime from the foundation of the Irish state in 1922 until 1996.

The report’s findings follow investigations into clerical sex abuse and state-abetted cover-ups that have shattered the authority of the church in Ireland and rocked the Catholic Church’s reputation worldwide.

“Many of the women who met with the committee experienced the laundries as lonely and frightening places. For too long, they have been and have felt forgotten,” said the report on Tuesday, compiled by an inter-departmental government committee established in 2011.

“None of us can begin to imagine the confusion and fear experienced by these young girls, in many cases little more than children, on entering the laundries – not knowing where they were, feeling abandoned.”

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