By Conall Ó Fátharta

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The treatment of women and girls in Magdalene Laundries across Ireland “constituted slavery” which should be subject to a criminal probe.

In his latest report, special rapporteur on child protection and child law expert Geoffrey Shannon, said the State’s refusal “to accept responsibility [on the Magdalene Laundry issue] has served to deny survivors the redress to which they are clearly entitled”.

“The detention and use of women and girls as workers without pay would amount to ‘forced labour’ under the 1930 Forced Labour Convention of the International Labour Organisation, which Ireland signed in 1931. It appears from the reports provided by these women and girls that their treatment constituted slavery,” he said.

Mr Shannon said the treatment of the women in the laundries fitted the convention’s definition of slavery as including forced or compulsory labour.

“It is clear that the testimonies of the survivors indicate that their treatment fits this definition: they were sent to institutions, in which women and girls were made to work without pay, where physical punishment was practiced, doors were locked and escapees were likely to be returned by the police.”

Mr Shannon also said the need to deal with the matter of accountability and redress was crucial to ensure Ireland’s compliance with international human rights laws. He also said the right to redress and remedy still existed even where the State was not directly “overseeing slavery”.

Justice For Magdalenes PRO Claire McGettrick said the intervention of Mr Shannon was “especially welcome” given that the majority of survivors in contact with the group were children when they were incarcerated in the laundries.

“JFM recently obtained testimony from a woman who was employed as a ‘paid hand’ at the Sisters of Mercy Laundry in Galway.

“This woman offered vivid accounts of the terror experienced by children in Galway — particularly poignant are her descriptions of young girls who clutched each other in fear when they arrived at the laundry, having been transferred from Ennis Industrial School,” she said.

JFM advisory committee member and director of Women’s Studies at UCD’s School of Social Justice Dr Katherine O’Donnell, also welcomed comments by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin that “research-based investigation” might better address such issues as the Magdalene Laundries, pointing out it has been carrying out such research since its foundation.

JFM has, to date, uncovered over 50 clear examples of the State committing girls as young as 14 years old to Magdalene Laundries.

The group has provided over 500 pages of newly- gathered survivor testimony to the Senator Martin McAleese led inter-departmental committee examining State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries.

The question of such involvement has already caused Justice Minister Alan Shatter to backtrack on the issue in recent months.

While in opposition, he said there was “irrefutable evidence” of such collusion through court records and files held by the Department of Justice.

However, Mr Shatter has since rowed back on such comments claiming the issue had a “very complicated” background that did not have a “simple, straight-forward explanation”.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, July 26, 2012

Irish Examiner

 

13 Responses to “Treatment of girls in laundries ‘constituted slavery’”

  1. Martha says:

    Kevin wrote:-

    “You are correct and I believe the nuns still alive should be brought before the courts.”

    Most of those nuns are dead now, Kevin. Besides, this is Ireland and Irish people (both here and abroad) are, for the most part, still psychologically under the influence of their Roman Catholic childhood conditioning. One only has to take a look at our so-called political leaders to see the pathetic state of the collective Irish psyche. We’re a “class-ridden” society. Include me out; though I can be “rather posh” when I feel like it :)

    “A laundry still operates on the site of the Magdalene Laundry so this is a physical reminder to the Good Shepherd nuns.”

    Oh really? Who runs it now? Is it full of “screaming orphans”, as in Slave Labour, do you know?

    “I have written to the museum in Limerick about Limerick Lace. They informed me it is not currently on display but is on their website.I highlighted how it was made by women incarcerated by the nuns.”

    Who runs (owns and controls) this Lace museum in Limerick now?

    “Yes, we are up against it but must soldier on.”

    Soldier on? I don’t know about you, Kevin, but I’m not at war with anyone. Although I am aware that we humans (and not just us Irish) are faced with the real threat of extinction. Meantime, I am just trying to make the best of what is left of my life.

    Best of luck to you Kevin.

    Martha

  2. Kevin says:

    Martha,

    You are correct and I believe the nuns still alive should be brought before the courts. A laundry still operates on the site of the Magdalene Laundry so this is a physical reminder to the Good Shepherd nuns.I have written to the museum in Limerick about Limerick Lace. They informed me it is not currently on display but is on their website.I highlighted how it was made by women incarcerated by the nuns.

    Yes, we are up against it but must soldier on.

  3. Paddy says:

    Veronica, thanks for taking the time to write and for being so generous in your comments. Things have been quiet over the past while – it probably due to fact that it’s what so often referred to as the ‘silly season’ As information becomes available be assured I will put it on this website. Your comments make all the work that goes into this website, worthwhile. Once again. Thank you. Paddy.

  4. Martha says:

    Kevin wrote:-

    “I recently found this website and thank you for it, and your work. I recently passed by the Good Shepherd Convent in Limerick, and have vowed never to be silent. I would like to see a memorial garden there in tribute to the women kept in the Magdalene Laundry and a place to remember the lives destroyed.
    I passed the site and couldn’t in conscience remain silent. I was distressed to learn mothers were kept from their own children within the same building.”

    But Kevin, this is Ireland – to be more precise, Roman Catholic Ireland. It still exists, despite the veneer of us Irish being a “modern people”. We’re still very much in the thrall of our RC heritage, as a people …

    So, erecting a monument to our dead, or “Dear Departed” isn’t going to change the way the collective Irish psyche works. Personally, if someone I loved is dead, I remember him or her in my own Soul, as it were. In other words, I don’t need a stone or whatever to help me remind of them and their positive influence on my life, on me as a person: they live on in me …

    Kevin, one’s given Environment is just “cultural conditioning” . What determines a Human (or any other animal) is not the environment its born into, but the way he/she is treated by those who are responsible for his/hers emotional development.

    I think I’ve “ranted” enough already …

    BTW, Paddy, I hope you are ok …

    Martha

  5. veronica obrien says:

    hello paddy, its been awful quite these days i want to say thankyou for all the hard work you put into this site i for one like many others appreciate it i will pop back again soon veronica.

  6. Paddy says:

    I appreciate your kind comment. Feel free to visit the website regularly and to comment as you wish. Paddy.

  7. Kevin says:

    I recently found this website and thank you for it, and your work. I recently passed by the Good Shepherd Convent in Limerick, and have vowed never to be silent. I would like to see a memorial garden there in tribute to the women kept in the Magdalene Laundry and a place to remember the lives destroyed.

    I passed the site and couldn’t in conscience remain silent. I was distressed to learn mothers were kept from their own children within the same building.

  8. Martha says:

    Hi Paddy, I’m hanging on by my fingernails too :)

    I wish I could help you better than I can, but I’m only human like yourself – and we are up against some of the most dehumanised people on the planet …

    I’m reminded of that lyric from David Byrne/Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” song:

    “How did I get here? ”

    Best of luck, Paddy.

  9. Paddy says:

    Paddy is here, just taking a break. Keeping this website going is a full time job, Thanks for your concern. It’s deeply appreciated. Paddy

  10. Martha says:

    Hi all,

    Just curious, but where;s everyone gone, especially Paddy?

  11. Martha says:

    Conall Ó Fátharta, the author of this article wrote:-

    “In his latest report, special rapporteur on child protection and child law expert Geoffrey Shannon, said the State’s refusal “to accept responsibility [on the Magdalene Laundry issue] has served to deny survivors the redress to which they are clearly entitled”.

    But we are all the survivors and victims of The System.

    “Holy Catholic Ireland” was just one part of the so-called “Markets” that determines the way most of us live today. Its a parasitical system. Therefore, any one of us is can easily be a victim of the driving force behind this all this NORMALISED sociopathy. So,inevitably, the most vulnerable – our INFANTS – are the first casualties of this ongoing war between us humans.

    Why are we humans at war against each other? Because some of us are insane and some of us are not.

    Why? We are all shaped by our early environment – which we become implicitly (intuitively) aware of three months after we are conceived. After that (when we come out of the womb) we still try to make sense of our environment. Think about it … and when you do, you will understand why you had the childhood experiences you had …

  12. Mary says:

    Why haven’t groups solicitors, survivors, listened all those years ago when I spoke up. It takes a child law Geoffrey Shannon to speak up yes it was forced labour for twenty seven years for my dear mum. The stupid nuns knew she had a family they buried her in a mass grave. Mr shatter there is no complicated background to the laundries there are records and survivors that can tell you what happened.Yes women were poor some had no homes. Children were sent from industrial school for punishment did that give Ireland the right to take away ever human right they had. The complicated background are the nuns they are been protected by the Irish government

  13. pauline says:

    This is one of the reasons that i think that a memorial is premature. as long as this isint settled. its a terrable thing to have spent years out of thier lives living in such conditions. And now the government are showing who runs the place. thay should be as horrified as if this had happened somewhere else.But no thay are hoping it will go away .

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