When in doubt, lock up all the women

The headstrong survivors of the Magdalene laundries are threatening to go on a hunger strike if the Irish government doesn’t set up a redress board.

Steven O’Riordain, a representative of the Magdalene Survivors Together, has warned  some women will go on hunger strike if the government does not meet their demands.

“There is a possibility that this will happen. Some of the women have said if they do not get proper redress from a state which was responsible for being abandoned in these institutions. Many of them say they are at that age now where they have nothing to lose if the government fails to set up a scheme that will give some compensation for what happened to them,” he said.

In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture called on the Irish government to set up an inquiry into the treatment of thousands of women and girls.

It has been estimated that up to 30,000 women passed through the laundries and had to wash clothing and bedding for bodies ranging from the Irish army to hotel groups in the republic without any pay.

Three orders of Catholic nuns – the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd – ran the Magdalene laundries.

Nuns ran these slave camps for “headstrong” girls. How charitable, how merciful, how like a good shepherd. Thank you very much.


  1. Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin says

    The Leader of Fianna Fáil (in opposition) has expressed his regret that survivors of the Magdalen Laundries were omitted from the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme following the Ryan Report. Micheál Martin said he was sorry. Well, if he’s that sorry, I hope he shows it in kind by getting himself a tent and sleeping bag and joining the survivors and roughing it up outside the Dail. It just breaks my heart to think that the survivors will have to go on a hunger strike in order for them to get their rights. They’ve been fighting for ten years, and that doesn’t include another decade and a half for those of whom went to Magdalen laundries directly from industrial *schools*. These women are a force to be reckoned with, and they need all the moral support they can get from women all around the world. These women have fought with their minds, body and souls, since they were children.

    Mary Smith has never known a mother; a father, a sister, or a brother; an aunt; an uncle, a niece; a nephew, a grand-father, a grand-mother, during her incarceration at two years old into two industrial schools and then a Magdalen laundry. She discovered a brother quite accidentally as an adult. He too was incarcerated into two industrial schools and sent to work as a farming labourer. He ended up at 17 in a mental hospital where he was left to rot, as he had no family, or so he thought, and died in the mental hospital when he was all but 50 years old. He was signed up for the redress board, but died before being called up.

    I went with Mary to seek the grave of the mother she never knew, who died at the young age of 32 in a mental hospital in Cork. We didn’t find it, but later it was discovered in the grounds of a nearby mental hospital. I was very traumatised after the experience. Especially when I saw this handsome man in the mental hospital, who clung on to Mary, as she kept reminding him that she his sister. I can’t say anymore. it’s too distressing. I just wish people would morally support the survivors of Magdalen laundries, as they’ve paid the ultimate price in suffering.

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    Three orders of Catholic nuns – the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd – ran the Magdalene laundries.

    Ah, Ophelia, that’s four orders of nuns.

  3. Rodney Nelson says

    Sorry, I didn’t realize it was a quote. Being in a colored box should have been a clue, but sometimes I’m a little slow.

  4. mildlymagnificent says

    The common expression here for those who went to catholic schools is the Sisters of Show No Mercy.

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