The Irish Times 25th June 2011

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

TWO OF the religious congregations which ran Magdalene laundries in the State set up and continue to run the Dublin-based Ruhama agency, which is funded by the State and works “with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation”.

According to its website, the agency receives funding from the Department of Health and the Department of Justice.

Ruhama, which means “renewed life” in Hebrew, is described as “a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, both of which had a long history of involvement with marginalised women, including those involved in prostitution”.

Both congregations refused to meet Justice for Magdalenes, a support group for women who had been in the laundries, including those run by the Good Shepherd Sisters at Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross, and those run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity at High Park in Drumcondra and Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin.

In a letter to Justice for Magdalenes spokesman Prof James Smith on June 23rd last year, Sr Sheila Murphy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity said she did “not wish to have, nor do I see any purpose in having, a meeting with you at this time”.

In an e-mail of June 17th last year, Sr Bernie McNally of the Good Shepherd Sisters told Prof Smith she would not be able to engage in a meeting with him and “will not be able to respond further”.

Top of the list of Ruhama’s board of directors are Sr Sheila Murphy and Sr Bernadette McNally.

As reported in The Irish Times , figures disclosed to Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly revealed that the Good Shepherd Sisters have received more than €14.4 million from the Health Service Executive since 2006.

No figures were disclosed for what sums the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity received over that period, or for what either order received from the Department of Justice.

Despite selling off extensive properties in Waterford, Cork and Limerick, the Good Shepherd Sisters said, following publication of the Ryan report in 2009, that they had no resources to contribute to the costs of redress for people who had been abused as children in institutions which they had also run.


4 Responses to “Laundry orders run sex workers’ aid group”

  1. Libby Phelan says:

    Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland (also connected to the Sisters of Mercy) are regular contributors to RTE shows like Drivetime where their opinions generally go unchallenged. This bothers me for two main reasons

    1) As a rationalist I object to them exploiting the shame around sex to present a distorted picture of the sex trade/prostitution in Ireland. The Gardaí and some brave journalists like Jim Cusack have both said there are hardly any figures to show trafficking is widespread in Ireland. Of course ANY cases of it should result in the toughest penalties but it’s wrong for Ruhama/ICI to mislead the public to promote their own agenda which is obviously to prohibit any and all prostitution for their own respective conservative moral or radical feminist perspectives.

    2) As a liberal and ‘sex positive’ (look it up) feminist I contest the view that you can’t be a feminist and believe women (and men) should be able to do what they want with their own bodies as long as they harm nobody else. Ruhama quote and rely on radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon whose works have regrettably become the mainstream of feminism in the USA. Both authors have consistently marginalised and demonised men and also rage against pornography, sex shops and other consensual activity. I suggest anyone read ‘The New Victorians’ by Rene Denfeld who shows how McKinnon and Dworkin have more in common with the right wing of the Republican Party in the USA than the needs of 21 Century empowered and free thinking women.

    Open your minds and realise Ruhama and ICI are more about ‘slut shaming’ than empowering women. That’s my two cents worth anyway.

  2. Does the not have membership to some Dept of Justice committees?

    Why are there no figures for the Dept.of Justice?

    Are they to above, as well as responsible for imposing, the law?

    Smacks of Vaticanitis, maybe?

  3. How do thay get these jobs. Social work and religion are two different things.the fact that these women are nuns makes thier religion omnipresent. in social work an open mind is a lot better at caring about people than a fanatic.there are people from totally different cultures now.Trained social workers can deal with them easier than nuns.Empathy can make a lot of difference.