The Irish government has finally admitted that it colluded with the Catholic Church in sending young girls to laundry sweatshops run by the Magdalene sisters, where they suffered shocking abuse at the hands of the nuns and priests.
After more than seven decades of exploitation and a 10-year struggle for justice, Ireland on Tuesday admitted its role in the enslavement of thousands of women and girls in the notorious Magdalene Laundry system, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology from the government.
Labelled the “Maggies”, the women and girls were stripped of their names and dumped in Irish Catholic church-run laundries where nuns treated them as slaves, simply because they were unmarried mothers, orphans or regarded as somehow morally wayward.
Over 74 years, 30,000 women were put to work in de facto detention, mostly in laundries run by nuns. At least 988 of the women who were buried in laundry grounds are thought to have spent most of their lives inside the institutions.
One of the survivors described how the nuns treated them. “[The nuns] ate very well while we were on dripping, tea, bread. I remember another torture – one when we were all hungry – we could smell the likes of roast beef and cooked chicken wafting from where the nuns were eating. That was like another insult.”
The outstanding 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters provides a fictionalized version of what went on there. Here’s the trailer.
The Catholic Church really needs to be treated like an organized crime syndicate.