37 thoughts on “Magdalen Laundries”

  1. I was just horrified when I read this post. I went to school in Donnybrook in the 60s/70s and used to walk past the Mary Magdelen laundry quite often – I knew it was a home for ‘unmarried mothers’ – if only we knew then.

  2. Two cousins of mine were taken from their Mother, at ages about 4 and 5 (they all lived with my grand-parents at the time)by the government, circa early 1950’s. Reason, marriage had broken down. Despite numerous attempts to get them out of the orphanage in Clifden, and my Aunt having remarried and had a husband and home, the Church and Government refused to release them. My cousins were “released” in 1965.

    One of the reasons that we know so little about this is because people remained silent. Though I do remember being told by an Aunt that “if I was naughty, I would end up like my cousins”. I did not know exactly what had happenned to my cousins until years later. I was told, when I asked that they were in boarding school. The pain this caused in my family is horrendous.

    What I would like from the Catholic Church is an public apology, and an acknowledgement of the abuse that has been committed in it’s name.

    Thanks for the transcript, it does indeed make harrowing reading.

  3. Oh please! While I don’t doubt that abuses took place – anyone believing this account needs to be offered a bridge in Brooklyn. Don’t forget! She’s bringing out a book soon!

  4. References to “selling the Brooklyn Bridge” abound in American culture, sometimes as examples of rural gullibility but more often in connection with an idea that strains credulity. For example, “If you believe that, I have a wonderful bargain for you . . .” However, see also Victor Lustig

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_Bridge#Cultural_significance

    In other words US guy comes up to recent Irish immigrant and offers to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge for 5 dollars – Irish immigrant agrees, and later discovers the US guy didnt own it at all.

  5. I have just finished reading Kathy’s Story, and I have to admit I have not read anything so appalling. For the Catholic Church to sweep it all under the carpet defies all the Christian principles they supposedly stand for. And no credit to the public or the Government. All are guilty.
    My parent’s marriage broke down in 1950, when my sister and I were toddlers. Thankfully, we were living in another country. We had a normal childhood.

  6. I watched the film ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ which had an affect on me like no other film. This then spurred me on to read ‘Kathy’s Story’. I just can’t believe that kind of thing went on and until very recently aswell. I have no words for it. I just look at my 3 year old daughter and am thankful she is with me.

  7. Oh Jean, 30th Ocober 2005, how easy it is not to believe the sins committed by the ‘good’ sisters. Sadly these stories, and thousands of others like them, are only too true and made worse by the secondary abuse of being disbelieved. These laundries also existed outside of Ireland. I lived in one in Hobart in Tasmania in the 1960s where I worked in unpaid labour in the laundry to the enrichment of the catholic church. My only crime was the judgement of my adoptive mother and society and my inability to defend myself against these. The survivors of these hell holes need support and understanding and acknowledgement of the crimes committed against them – not further harsh judgements that question their integrity.

  8. i have just finished reading Kathy’s book ‘dont tell’ and i was horrified at what she went through, i have also watched programmes and films about the magdelen laundries, and schools and what children and young women went through…. no one should have to experience what they did. For anyone who denies that these things happened seriously needs their heads examining.

  9. i have just finished reading kathy`s book. wot an amasing person to have lived that life and to still have the strength to tell her story and fight for the cause of others

  10. i too have just finished reading Kathys story. i am a catholic and remember how i was humiliated when i could not do my catacisem or have any money from my parents for “charity”or my “sheep” were not filled in on the class room wall. how can anyone not belive her. i wish i could give her a big cuddle and say good girl, be proud x

  11. i have read numerous accounts of these orphanages and laundries etc and i am appalled at the behaviour of these so called carers. The catholic church should be ashamed of itsellf.

  12. ive not slept for two nights after reading the most shocking,saddest and appalling account of the lives or should i say existance of the women in the magdalen laundries.How can any so called first world countries point the finger at terrorists elsewhere in the world when crimes against humanity where happening under their noses?As usual women,children and the poor suffered beyond belief by the very people who should have protected them.it is frightening to think what else is going on in supposidley civilised nations.

  13. its appaling that theses religous ponces can do such a fucking thing im 12 years old and i have read thius book i think its disgracefull that her father never one said sorry the fucking sik bastard im so ashamed of reading the book my life is luxurious compared to some i feel so ungrateful

  14. I currently work in Child Protection and just finished reading Kathy’s Story. Although I knew that in the past children were sent away for unfortunately being abused, I did not know that nuns and priest’s from the Catholic church were also responsible for the sexual, emotional and physcical abuse these unfortunate children recieved.It just shows that children need to be wary and have someone in their lives that they have complete trust in and can go to in any circumstance.
    The sad thing is that there are still an enormous amount of children that are abused day in and day out and are afraid to speak up for fear of not being believed or fear of themselves being blamed. The way an abuser plays mind games, and the manipulation and fear that is involved is sickenig. I have worked with kids that have suffered the most unbelieveable and horrific things, kids that will never be the same or have a chance of living a normal life. Every day is a challenge for these kids. Many kids who are abused believe it is normal and occures in every family and this needs to be stopped. People need to be more aware. Converstaions need to be started and stories like Kathy’s need to be told.Abuse needs to stop. If you suspect something is happening or witness it, REPORT IT and stop these abuser’s getting away with it.
    The book “The little prisioner” by Jane Elliott is an horrific book to read, but it shows the mind games that are played and how easy it is for an abuser to be able to abuse a child right under the same roof as the child’s mother. I recommend it

  15. I also have read the book and found it sooo disturbing. The things that upset me the most are
    The Sisters of Charity, who ran the Laundry, sold the land containing the graveyard in 1993. They sought an exhumation licence for the 133 bodies supposedly buried there. Yet 155 bodies were found. There are no Death Certificates for these women. The names on the gravestone do not match those on the exhumation licence. The Department of the Environment supplied a second licence allowing exhumation of all remains without seeking any further information from the nuns.
    The Sisters of Charity claim not to know the names of all of the women. The law has been broken — it is illegal not to report a death to the authorities — yet the State appears to be turning a blind eye. Do not let the injustices done to the women and girls incarcerated in the Laundries in life continue in death. Establish a State Inquiry. Who were these women and what were the circumstances of their deaths?
    I would also like to add that the way in which these poor girls were treated by the people that are meant to be the voice of God is a disgrace to their religion and to the Irish community. And when they did speak up to the authorities about the sexual abuse that they were encountering they were then sent to a physciatric hospital, no matter what their age. When they got there they were no better treated than in the “home” and being gang raped by the older male patients as young as 9 yrs of age. I cannot see any logical reason why no authorities would want to get involved, other than the fact that the labour was free and made alot of money not just for the church but for the government.

  16. I have read the book Kathy;s story quite recently and i would like to excalim that i knew nothing on this topic and it deeply suprised me that no one, even if they did know about the happenings in the laundrires, did nothing to stop it.

    Kathy was put into a mental hospital at the age of 14, my current age, and was continuously druged and raped by so called nurses and priests that came on ‘visits’. This behaviour is dipicable and considering a lot of people knew about the happenings i was shamed to read on that nothing at all was done when the nurses knew all along what was going on.

    Kathy then was moved onto the laudries. In the laudries she experienced nothing more than living hell. Trying to escape many times she was only beaten for her efforts.

    When she was finally old enough to leave the laundries she was dying inside and had to take years of councelling to fix herself again. Many of her friends died while in the laundreis and it saddens me to hear that on the mass gravestones some of the womans names were not even on there correctly and some of the dates were completely mucked up. This is horrible as the least these ladies deserve is a grave to themselves and propper dates on the headstones.

    The reamaining woman i’m sure don’t want money or anything else but a mere appology. Is this to much to ask?

  17. I have just finished reading ‘Don’t tell’ which I read in 2 days. Recently I have also read other similar books about child abuse i.e ‘A Child called it’ by David Pelzer and the two further books he wrote. After reading what horrors these people went through as children it breaks my heart and I can’t believe that there are people out there who can do this to small vulnerable children.

    I have been so moved by these stories that I have decided to get more involved with helping children in need (not quite sure what yet).

    The book made me cry so much I feel so much for Kathy and others like her I can’t imagine how horrible life must have been. How Kathy has kept her faith is beyond me.

    I wish Kathy all my warnest wishes and hope she and her friends get justice in the end.

  18. I got the book Kathy’s Story and read it in one night. I was appalled to read the horrible life these young girls went though. How disgusting of the nuns just to brush it aside and for the priest to do what they did to these girls and to let vistors do it to the girls aswell.The whole catholic church should be ashamed of themselves and the people who are belivers and did this to these women. How Kathy survived is beyond me,I dont know how she did it. What a strong little girl and now a strong woman here to tell her story.Kathy if you read this i would like to stay that i am very proud of you that you told your story even though it would have been hard but you stood up and spoke forself and all the others and for that you should be proud to. I wish you all the very best and hope you get the justice you all derserve. All the very best to you and keep on fighting for what you know is right!!!!

  19. I just finished the book and am saddened that such things were allowed to happen to those women and children. The people responsible for making their lives hell should be punished for it regardless of their status, I hope they are plagued with guilt and disgust for their actions.
    God Bless all who survived this cruel torture and may those who didn’t Rest In Peace.

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  21. I like Jean have a hard time believing these stories. But to be frank, it’s because I REFUSE to believe such horrors could occur in the First World. It would be SO much easier to bury your head in the sand and say “that COULD NOT have happened, or if it did – it had to have happened in like 1920’s, before women had rights or something”

    It’s HORRIFIC. It’s scary to think that it was occuring right down the road from good people. People are going on about the Catholic Church. I mean the church I don’t think micromanage to the point where they actually know what’s going on in individual sects. I’m Catholic (albeit not a good one) but nevertheless I’m sure they didn’t know all that was going on or at least dismissed accusations as untrue. It’s not an issue of what church it originated from anyway, but rather that another human being could think that somehow treating someone so inhumanely is not only good, but the way to save them. Bloody hell, I have a fit when my five year old runs around trying to stamp on insects!! And what of the parents? I dunno…religious fevour is just no excuse! perhaps again I go back to my first theory…it simply cannot be true, not in this day and age…with tv and newspapers and internet…maybe in the Middle East, with all those crazed women hating cloth heads…but surely not in the civilized world, certainly not in Ireland. Right?

  22. I finished reading ‘Kathy’s Story’ three days ago and it brought back memories when I was placed in a children’s home run by nuns in Northern Ireland. These so called people of God should never have any contact with children, if they did believe in God they would not treat people the way they did. I remember being about 6 years old and after having being caught playing a game of Kiss catch the nuns giving me a good hiding with a big leather belt, they said good girls don’t play games like that. I would like to say to any nuns that read this that they should be ashamed of the legacy that these so called sisters of mercy have left!

  23. Log onto butterfliesandwheels.com notes and comment and articles Dec section scroll until you come to Neglect and Abuse in Industrial Schools. Your comments would be greatly appreciated from those who were in the system from toddler stages.
    SLAN!

  24. I have just finished reading Kathys story. And I am filled with sorrow, pity and disgust. I totally believe her story. Justice needs to be and will be done. I wish that i could go back in time and rescue that helpless angel!! I am even thinking of changing my occupation, I’d love to be in an a situation wher i could help make a difference to children who suffer at the hands of monsters, like in her story. May God Bless her all the days of her life. Keep strong Kathy x

  25. yeah, these industrial schools (child prisons)are also about kids that ended up, during or after their time in these prsions, inside mental hospitals….as this message is being posted, there are presently, 260 kids, under 16, being detained inside adult mental hospitals (throughout Ireland) and, worse, the system of Care, is failing them, as is the Irish State, a signatory to the “international convention of (childrens) rights….moreover, the Irish government is presently trying to “amend” the Irish Constitution, (another way of trying to cover up the abuses of industrial and mental hospital) regarding the “Imprescriptable rights of the child!….to date, the Irish state has managed to ignore that very right for many imprisoned kids…..

    yours

  26. How anyone can belong to the Romaqn Catholic church is behond me, I have just finished reading the Book about the Magdalene laundtys ! The Priesthood is an evil entity as are the nuns that rejoice in the name “sisters of mercy ”
    I am proud to be called an atheist !!!!!!!

  27. hi just thought id say that i have just finished kathy’s story i cant believe thaat poor girl went through so much hell i really feel for her from the bottom of my heart i wsas brought up catholic and suffored horid and vile abuse from a very early age it ruined my childhood that even 20 yrs after the abuse i think i can finally leave my past in the past so kathy ur prayers r with me god bless u for living through the hell u suffered i would like to point out to outher readers to read a book called little prisoner by jane elliot another beautiful story but very sad story of abuse so if any one has suffered abuse of any form please dont hide away from it it is not ur fault speak up and relaese the devil inside

  28. As a social worker about to do her MSW with thesis, I have been appalled at the things my research has found. JEAN who wrote above back in ’05 needs to chill and look up things. The story in Ireland is the tip of the isceberg. In CANADA AND THE USA there were Catholic plaves but also as in Great Britain PROTESTANT homes. All are gulity. Too bad the call for reform amont social service agencies are not being heeded. There is still a mentality that being poor, divorced ect ect that you are not a fit mother. I interviewed many nuns who told me that the teachings of the church was unless you wre married you were not a “fit mother” what rubbish. The other side is the attitude of middle class social workers who think very narrow minded and keep harrassing women who are struggling to support their children that “it is better to give them up? then they try and harrass them and threaten them with taking them away. Too poor to get a good lawyer these women have no chance. My thesis is taking me around to many countries as the thesis is about the treatment of mothers and children in the Western world. My supervisor says I am going to be labeled a trouble maker. I uphold the oath I have taken and number three of the CODE OF EHTICS is : Above all do no harm!! right when you work for a government or church agency guess what you are to make them look good! I have a vested interest in bringing all this to light. For forty years I did not know where my beloved sister was. Found her. We wil have a good life and frustrate those who had other plans for us! God bless the children.

  29. god bless the children.and damn all the catholic nuns and priests to hell.all the laundries have been closed down since kathy went to the archbishop.but why has there been no justice. those nuns need to be put in jail to do their penitents,they have not only sinned they have broken the law.if joe blow had done what they did (muder,disposing of corpses,abuse,torture,slavery)he would not get away with it.thank god sexual abuse is out in the open these days and not dismissed as the child having a troublesome mind.
    kathy has done the right thing telling her storey .a survivior so much that shes helping the ones that didnt.

  30. I have recently finished reading ” Don’t Ever Tell” Kathy O’Beirne and i cried not just tears of sorrow but tears of imense anger and i can’t believe the comments left by “JEAN” 05 , does dhe really believe it’s just for publicity for her book , it’s down to people like Jean that these crimes go unaccounted for because it’s far easier to bury your head than believe that crimes like these can of and do exsist , just because the some of the people responsible are priests , nuns lay people , Drs ETC it doesn’t mean they are not capable of these horrific crimes anyone who has read the completed book knows that less than 3 short years ago Kathys friend Liz died in horrific circumstances in an asylum a place she should never of been ever none of them should how any goverment not just the Irish but any goverment that knew these children and women were and are been kept in this way should not just hang thier head in shame but should make a public apology and an immediate inquiery ( not just promises ) into thier past and thier present granted the women that are stuck in these asylums would now never survive independently but the goverments need to make sure thier remaning life is as comfortable as possible how anyone could close thier eyes to this is beyond me and i will just say this Jean i hope you or yours never have to experience anything that these children and women suffered .

    To Kathy and anyone else who went through this if i had a wish it would be to go back in time and prevent your suffering you will all always hold a place in my heart be strong don’t let the nightmares win

  31. Poor Kathy,my heart goes out to her Her story though shocking doesn’t come as a great surprise to me Back in the
    1960’s,like Kathy I too personally witnessed the harshness of these women,albeit on a lesser scale,while attending a Sister of Mercy secondary girls convent in Australia
    Many of the teaching sisters there were bad tempered and quite unfriendly and certainly not in the least bit merciful and at times some could be quite abusive particularly Mother Superior Some of the older sisters seemed to take a fiendish delight in finding fault with our behaviour and they used to hit us over knuckles and back of our legs with a ruler for the most trivial of transgressions like running in the corridors or talking during prayers It was all so unjust but we dared not question there right to treat us this way for fear of being sent to Mother Superior,the principal a sharp tongued humourless sister in her fifties from Ireland Unlike theteaching sisters she believed in publicly humiliating wrongdoers by punishing them at assembly or getting them to scrub toilet floors on their hands and knees So hardly a week would go by without some girls being slapped on the face, back or backside in front of the school for being rude to the sisters,while others got their overly long hair cut shocking short and in a few cases girls even got their mouths washed out with soap for swearing
    Mother Superior was particularly hard on girls caught misbehaving in town who,as she put it’brought shame to her convent’ In my final year at school one of my classmates and four of her year 12 cobbers were caught in a bar during school hours Next morning despite their protests they were
    bundled onto the stage in their cotton romper shorts in a truly humiliating fashion after which they were bent over a desk and suffered the idignity of getting their bottoms caned in front of everyone It was really awful! They were tough, high spirited,but by the time she had finished with them they were in tears and would be unable to sit down
    properly for days
    Looking back it makes me so angry that these women got away with treating us like this I know schools were much stricter in those days but there was certainly no excuse for the humiliation or the excessive use of corporal punishment I don’t know whether girls in others convents suffered like us but what I do know is like ‘kathy’s sisters’these women will have a lot to answer for on judgement day
    hard case girls but by the time she had

  32. Jean,along the way we who grew up in institutions have met plenty of people with your judgemental opinions.
    At least you acknowledge the abuse happened.As Caroline (april 6th 2007)says, it didn’t only happen in Ireland–here in Australia we had hundreds of institutions run by the Government and by every denomination of religious groups. In 2004 the Senate Inquiry into “Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home-care as children” revealed a history of neglect and cruelty,of abandonment and exploitation. It also revealed large numbers of these children experienced serious and often criminal physical,sexual and emotional abuse,neglect and assault. As adults we were left with poor health,low levels of education,lack of social skills,poor parenting skills,Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–(PTSD) loss of family,depression and many many more issues. So Jean, you sit back and scoff at people like Kathy, brave enough to tell her story. But we (and in Australia they estimate over 500.000 children spent some time “in care”) know, regretfully, her story is not unique it is similar to the stories of so many others worldwide.
    To Kathy and all other survivors of sanctioned abuse and incarceration, I say well done to survive and every good wish for the future.

  33. Where is the UN WOMAN Organization? Why does the UN not take a stand in this matter? Where are the Human Rights Organization to convince the Goverment to apoligize? The Chatolic religion is a religion which is against woman and woman rights! It is said that nuns who are woman did not helped other woman. Where are the Irish woman?? Make a fist and demonstrate!

  34. Or else the trauma and the effect of this trauma will go on for centuries. In het US the Chatolic Church has already apoligates for the abuse there. Why can’t the Chatolic Church? Woman across the world what kind of race you are or what your belief is: stand up and make a fist! NO MORE!

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