Irish government admits role in Catholic Church’s abuse of girls

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.


  1. Rodney Nelson says

    The Catholic Church really needs to be treated like an organized crime syndicate.

    This is a given since the Catholic Church is an organized crime syndicate. The Catholic hierarchy has an official policy of supporting child rapists.

  2. TGAP Dad says

    I have seen the film The Magdalene Sisters. It’s quite powerful -- and disturbing. There are many, many wince-inducing scenes in the film. I cannot really say that I enjoyed it -- how could anyone actually enjoy young women tortured for running afoul of the church’s mores? The one shortcoming of the film is that it doesn’t address the fact that the Irish government was in fact complicit in this slow-motion horror. I was the government who granted (or abdicated) to the catholic church the power to imprison and enslave children.

    I also recommend the virtually unknown 2002 film Evelyn, starring Pierce Brosnan as a father whose 3 children are taken from him -- by the church -- when his wife suddenly passes away. Based on a true story.

  3. baal says

    The RCC is currently paying billions to settle money laundering charges with the EU. That they are a flatly criminal organization is beyond doubt. While every county is a little different, Ireland (even in the 80-90s) is a modern country with decent resource levels and the rule of law. At the risk of sounding colonialist, if Ireland allowed and supported this kind of abuse (stealing the lives of thousands of girls) what went on in other countries? What is likely still going on in countries with weak governments and even more limited resources?

    We saw with the priest shuffling (rape cover up) that the problem is global. I doubt this particular abuse was limited to just Ireland.

  4. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    I[t] was the government who granted (or abdicated) to the catholic church the power to imprison and enslave children.

    It was the governments and police who were also their enforcers. Even contrary to the existing laws.

  5. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    I think we know this was not limited to Ireland, see, for instance, Germany. But not all countries are so Catholic as to support the church in doing such things. They occurred anyway at various times and places with or without religious institutional involvement. But the RCC is truly a behemoth in this arena.

    Ireland was also very insular, essentially under siege, extremely Catholic, and generally short on critical thinking and long on authoritarianism in some respects. These traits are variously shared with other regions and times, but for a while they formed the perfect mix in Ireland. Particularly the identification with the RCC, for many historical reasons. In some ways, the Irish were abused, and in turn, abusive. But now secularism and social justice are becoming more powerful there. In some ways, I’m sure we hear more about this in Ireland because there are enough Irish folks willing to root this out and drag it into the light of day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *