Press Release, 23 May 2011 — For Immediate Release

UN calls on Ireland to investigate Magdalene Laundries abuse

Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor advocacy group, is calling on the Irish government to act immediately on foot of calls from members of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) for an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Magdalene Laundries and redress for the women who suffered.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) today examined Ireland for the first time in Geneva, Switzerland. Today’s examination follows the “closed” NGO Briefing Session on Friday last, when JFM was invited to make a statement before the Committee (copy attached, below). Tomorrow afternoon, the Committee will hear responses from the Irish government delegation to the questions asked today.

At today’s examination, Committee members asked numerous questions of the Irish government about its intentions to investigate the Magdalene laundries abuse promptly, impartially and comprehensively, in accordance with its obligations under articles 12 and 13 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. See below for summaries and quotes from four members of the Committee.

The Committee also requested information from the state as to how it will ensure redress and compensation for the women who suffered in the Magdalene Laundries, in line with its obligation under Article 14 of the Convention.

JFM PRO Claire McGettrick said: “JFM believes the State can fulfil its responsibilities by obtaining reparations from the Catholic Church for its part in the women’s abuse. The majority of survivors are aging and elderly, and adversarial models of inquiry and redress would have the opposite effect of adding to their pain and sense of injustice.”

Maeve O’Rourke, who presented JFM’s submission to the Committee, said: “The UN Committee against Torture, along with the Irish Human Rights Commission, has taken an extremely serious view of the abuse of women and girls in the Magdalene Laundries and the state’s responsibility for it. Today’s comments by the Committee members unequivocally recognise the rights of the women who are still alive to an investigation, an apology, redress and treatment with dignity. I am hopeful that the Irish government will now take this opportunity to respect the human rights of these women, which for so long have been disregarded.”

Professor James Smith (Boston College), member of JFM’s advisory committee, said: “JFM today calls on the Irish state, to offer a formal state apology to all survivors of the Magdalene laundries and that the government immediately establish a statutory inquiry into these abuses. To do otherwise is to cause additional pain and suffering to the women and thereby bring further shame on our nation. The women and their children deserve justice now.”

NOTE to Editors: (i) Summary of UNCAT members comments and quotations
(ii) A copy of JFM’s Statement from Friday’s NGO Briefing Session
(iii) Maeve O’Rourke is available for interviews from Geneva


39 Responses to “UN calls on Ireland to investigate Magdalene Laundries abuse”

  1. Gina says:

    Oh gosh, I watched the movie about those laundries and I’m absolutely horrified. Fuck the catholic church and those arsehole nuns and priests. (And all other churches too and all other religions, as I’m an atheist.) That is what religions does to people.

  2. culchiewoman says:

    Cyprian and Mick: I wouldn’t wade into the argument over Free State vs. rule by GB. But Cyprian is correct in saying by abdicating responsibility for social services to the Church, the State left itself wide open for what it now currently faces. It’s one thing to “subcontract” those services; it’s another to turn a blind eye and not regulate, inspect and insure that those services are being delivered properly, and to insure that the rights of its citizens were not abrogated in the process. They weren’t “too poor” to do that. Well, it’s come home to roost now and the price must be paid for the State’s complicity in all of these abuses of its citizens.

  3. Cyprian says:

    Mick Read Mary Raftery’s book; the Religious Orders were paid for what they did and on top of that they treated the inmates as slaves working in their businesses for nothing. The Orders made money out of the services they provided and in too many cases abused those for whom they were supposed to care, in the most appalling ways. Your final sentence at least admits the people would have been better if Ireland had stayed united and in the UK.

  4. Mick says:

    Cyprian’s comments are most unwarranted. The State set up in 1922 was elected by the people and the people were for the most part Catholic and we should expect that Government and successive ones would reflect the Catholic ethos and standards. The fault is with the later Governments that allowed all sorts of permissive behaviour we ought to remember that liberty is not licence. With regard to the unfortunate errors made we must not forget Ireland was a poor country and relied on the Religious to provide services that in Britain were affordable by the state.

  5. These nuns were first of all women. When young girls entered these places it was the nuns who insulted them. it was them who overlooked the conditions in which these women lived.Thay could have shown a bit of humanity. But as women thay choose to be as hard on others as allowed.Thats not teaching good from bad its just being nasty because the women could not fight back.No one forced them to act so harshly.Thay saw themselves as above was a females only place.

  6. cyprian says:

    Read Mary Raftery’s book and it shows treatment of young people became worse after 1922 when independence from the UK gave way to dictatorship by the Catholic Church. There was also such idiocy as the banning of condoms as dangerous drugs, ridiculous censorship and the end of divorce all done at the behest of our friends in Rome.

  7. Kathy Jo Fulcher says:

    Same place He has always been, a sleep at the wheel..

  8. jackie says:

    Culchiewoman Perhaps Ivor is not a nun but God herself.

  9. culchiewoman says:

    Jackie, apparently God was out having a private chat with Ivor when all that happened. Or napping. Or just doesn’t exist?

  10. Jackie says:

    Where was God when his nuns imprisoned women, stole their babies and priests buggered altar boys?

  11. This has to be a joke. why should women want anything to do with priests and biships.Apart from all the rest i have never heard of a raped biship. and why should any little boy or girl want to.sexual attraction hase to be god ever blamed women only.otherwise its wrong as in the teachings of the church .this person hase no more rights as far as paradise is concerned. even if he blames the child for having raped him or her.slaves and masters is just not possable nowadays.Who would want to be your slave.!!!!

  12. Paddy says:

    “Ivor” whoever he/she is will now be blocked from writing to this site. He/she has had his/her say! Paddy

  13. harry light says:

    If Ivor is not having a laugh I think she is a nun.

  14. culchiewoman says:

    Ok, now I know for sure Ivor’s a troll. No human in their right mind could write that. That’s a load off my “sad” mind! I do have to ask a rhetorical question, though (not for you Ivor – you wouldn’t understand what rhetorical means in any case): how can an atheist hate God/Church if they don’t believe in either? Hmmm.

    Paddy, do feel free to share Ivor’s originating IP address so we can all see who she/he really is. It’ll take me 5 seconds to trace that sucker down.

  15. ivor says:

    culchiewoman I was going to ignore you since you do sound a sad sort but you leaves me no choice.Slavery is not so bad as people do say as it was allowed in the bible.Rape there is rape which is not right but when a woman sets out to get a man even a Bishop like poor Eamon Casey it does not be the fault of the man and no Bishop would ever commit rape!The thing you call psychological abuse is you not understanding what the nuns was trying to do when they taught poor unfortunates and had to be harsh with them to make them understand.Finally the UN is composed of a lot of atheists who hate God and his Church and that is why they persecute Ireland.You should never be fooled by them people ever.

  16. culchiewoman says:

    Harry, I’m trying to believe Ivor is just an ironic troll. But on the offchance he is in fact ‘a serious man’, I shall respond in kind. I am, after all, a serious woman. Ivor, you state ‘people is [sic] expected to judge right from wrong…’. So here are several ‘judgement’ questions for you, which I expect with your fine McQuaid background, you should be able to answer. Slavery: good or bad? Physical abuse including rape (by nuns, workmen, priests and even bishops): good or bad? Psychological abuse (including taunting, sexual suggestivenes, denial of freedom to talk and congregate) by nuns: good or bad?

    I know the answers to those questions, not because of any morals instilled in me by the Catholic Church, but because of my own internal ethical barometer, which says “Do no harm,” and all are bad.

    Now, when the Catholic Church perpetrates those crimes and the State colludes, how is the UN being ‘cheeky’ by calling the State on it?

    Time to take the blinkers off, Ivor. You’re worshipping criminals in dresses, not Jesus. Learn the difference.

  17. ivor says:

    Harry Light let me tell you that I am a man and a serious man at that.It is is well know fact Ireland was a happier,better and holier place when Archbishop McQuaid was in office than it is now.All in all there is too much freedom and choice and people is expected to judge right from wrong and they cannot otherwise they would respect God, the Church and the clergy.

  18. My shoes were holy so were my teeth but there was nothing holy in using these women to make money. nor in abusing children.Domestic tyrants are one of the reasons that cause divorce.And aids is one of the reasons that people get abortions for. none of this has to do with the religion of ireland. its just nasty people getting jobs that thay are drawn to .The world wont go backwards for you . we all have to go forward . so in the future things will be fairer. peoples sex life is thier own buisness and has been for some years all over europe.So the irish will do the same things.

  19. Harry Light says:

    Culchiewoman Please do not take Ivor seriously she or he is being ironic. No one with half a brain would want to return to Ireland of McQuaid and de Valera in which women were treated as they are in Iran today.

  20. culchiewoman says:

    @Ivor: The UN has cheek?

    ‘Sinners’? Really?? My mother was a ‘sinner’ because she was born out of wedlock and slaved earning no pay, doing sewing for the nuns? Men AND women of the UN (funny you should assume they were all men) made the right decision in condemning the Irish State’s collusion with the Catholic Church in subjecting its citizens to slave labour and the suppression of their freedom to associate.

    I suggest you remove your head from your arse, sand or wherever you’re storing it, roll yourself out from the 18th century and beg forgiveness for calling innocent women sinners. Shame on you. It is exactly that attitude that got Ireland in hot water with the UN. And it is certainly not what the Jesus you profess to believe in would do. But you’d rather go around ‘casting stones’, in direct contradiction of Jesus’ teachings. perhaps you’d like to have beheaded the women, too?

  21. Ivor says:

    This whole business is disgusting. The United Nations has a cheek daring to criticise Ireland. The nuns provided somewhere for the poor sinners to go, gave them work and most of all a chance to repent of their sins before judgement day. These men should be more concerned with their eternal souls and not go round speaking bad about my country!!!! I pray for the day we have no more divorce, pornography or contraception and Ireland can once more be called Holy.

  22. Barge says:

    Wouldn’t the nuns just love eastdub. If he was in the laundries, he’d probably be saying the same in there too. Let the nuns know that they can ply their vile trade in complete safety. We know that they absolutely do not want to be challenged. That’s the way that type of weasel works. They want you to lie down so they can walk all over you. There are certain situations where walking away is the correct thing to do, but this isn’t one of them. The fight for justice must continue unfortunately. When justice has been achieved, then you can start to think about forgiving.

  23. culchiewoman says:

    Pauline, you’re only too right.

    JFM is keenly aware that this could very well be the reality for many survivors and have addressed it in our proposed redress scheme. We do think the ladies may need front-of-line access to such services, and we know of two ladies in Cork who’d worked in the Bessboro mother-baby home all their lives who really had to be carefully taught how to do basic things like shopping, running a flat, managing a budget, etc. Huge thanks to Kathleen Lynch for personally helping them…she’s done great work with survivors in Cork. But yes, you are right — institutionalised living leaves one unable to cope with every day life, and that will have to be considered in any scheme the government comes back with (we hope it will be ours to the letter).

  24. How are these ladies supposed to get by. Without knowing anything about the present day society that thay have to live in. in all instutions people get used to being surounded by others.It would be reasonable to consider this side of things as stuck alone somewhere thay will be lonely. the unpaid wages earned by the nuns and government could make thier lives easier. its called compensation to simplafy but unpaid wages is the issue really. and thats a nowadays issue.

  25. Harry Light says:

    I congratulate John Murphy for his irony and in that he makes a far better case against the so called religious orders and the Irish State for their abuse of these unfortunate women than any amount of attacking the orders and the State.

  26. culchiewoman says:


    Your “suggestion” is anything but simple. Compulsory reading of Frankl? Are you daft? Now, I wonder how that will be possible for survivors like my mother who were robbed of their schooling and education and can’t read beyond a simple line on a birthday card?

    And I do hope you realise you’re replying to Paddy’s posting of the recent UNCAT decision on the Magdalene Laundries, not a piece on the industrial schools. Lest we forget, Magdalene survivors (who the UN avows *were* slave labour, *were* abused and *were* subject to torture) and survivors of the Protestant-run Bethany home were ommitted from the 2002 Redress Act.

    My anger over the treatment my mother received and over being separated from her and sold to the U.S. for adoption, simply because she had the gall to have me outside wedlock, has been appropriately channeled into co-founding Justice for Magdalenes and seeing the fruition of our hard work today. Not far off from Frankl.

    I agree ‘hurt’ is a useless, wasted emotion. But anger…now, that’s something you can do something with!

    But your complex, intellectual exercises in ‘forgiveness’ mean little to a population who only seek a public apology so they can go to their grave knowing that they weren’t at fault, they weren’t subhuman, and they weren’t ‘sinners’; a small pension for the unpaid labour they did; and access to the social services and education they were denied while institutionalised. Is that too much to ask?

    I would also ask of you: if you’re sick of reading ‘these stories,’ why are you here? Methinks we have yet another Roman Catholic apologist troll here…

  27. Forgiving can be done .thats very true . But the proplem for many is how to forget. No one gets a second chance at childhood ‘which is a time of learning about life.Every body has childhood memories. what thay are made of is impossable to wipe out

  28. nom de guerre says:

    EatDub, were you ever in an industrial school ?.

  29. Isuppose that you do understand that on this site and others many of us have been asking for all this to stop. The same people again and again is giving a false impression of the rest of us. Many live abroad and have never been able to explain that these people have made a vocation out of supposedly doing things for the survivers. But this is going on without us. we are not all like these media stars who as you say have every interest in keeping thier positions. but most of us have got on with our lives and are hurt by the attention given to so few. We hear on the tele in ireland but in other countrys we depend on paddy . many of us are against all kinds of abuse. including nowadays abuse.if things change then we can be sure the message is recieved for the future children. its part of the reason we write here . our memories are not nice ones but there it is.

  30. EastDub says:

    Forgiveness is the greatest justice that can resolve this. Forgiveness is the only thing that will heal any of this. I have yet to see ONE happy forgiving face in all of the people that have come across our TV screens. They are consumed with anger and vengence. This is what is known as classic victimhood, about what was done to “me” in the past by others. There is no healing in this, ever!!! I am sure every single person in this world can talk about different events that created “trauma” for them as children. It is the continuation of the story that is causing the suffering, not the event itself. Or is it a case of “well my suffering was worse than yours?” And we can all tell a good story.
    I find it very interesting that aplogies and compensation seem to be the only answer to all this. what’s even more interesting is, the lawyers are never very far away from these people. What about just forgive the person, be kind to yourselves and give up your stories?

    This behaviour of the “abused” is AS destructive as the original behaviour perpetrated. And let’s not forget the number of false accusation thrown out at innocent people too. Nora Wall springs to mind. Did she get apologies for being dragged through the courts and accused of outrageous stuff that was MADE UP by some seriously vindictive people? NO. Did she get a place on the PR campaigns of One In Four? No..

    The beauty of adulthood is we should find a perspective to see it from a place of reason and understanding, that these people didn’t know any better at the time! From the 2011 view point! Yes it is barbaric and horrible what some people did to children back in a darker time. But when are people going to give up this relentless pursuit for apologies and compensation with a level of vindictiveness that is off the scale?
    Restore your mind to peace by giving up your suffering!

    I have seen people who were “abused” create havoc and destroy relationships by keeping these stories alive! And not one of them radiates one iota of forgiveness, joy or compassion! forgiveness is not for others. it is for yourself! It’s all a choice. in every moment a new choice is given by asking “Am I going to keep going or am i going to surrender to a better place, where I can find peace and enjoy the rest of my life?”
    Living in the past is a recipe for unhappiness and compassion fatigue setting in for the rest of is – those that once sincerely prayed for healing for these people.
    I know that some people don’t want to heal. Who and what would they be without their tragic story? we all have our stories, some worse than others. A wise person is one that learns from the past and brings their love and compassion to others so that it never happens again. Anger and bitterness is the ultimate poison. You can have apologies and compensation all you want and bring it to centre stage of the UN, but it brings no peace without forgiveness. “The mind is it’s own place, it can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell”
    I suggest compulsory reading of Victor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. An incredible story of strenght and forgiveness in the eye of the most horrible crimes committed in the concentration camps in Germany. This man survived horrendous barbaric treatment at the hands of the Nazis. Victor inspired millions with his story. He rose above it and and went on to live a life of MEANING and turned his “poison” into “medicine” for himself and others. What a noble, courageous man!

    As a final question – “Who would all of these be without the stories?” We all have them. it’s what we do with them that is the measure of your hamanity.

    I have compassion for anybody’s suffering, but my tolerance for hearing these stories retold over and over (and growing) and demanding and demanding that everybody pay is exhausted by the anger and vengence with which is done.

    Forgiveness will bring more peace to this than anything else.the answer is simple – forgive and let go!

    And of course the victims won’t like such a simple answer, because what would happen to their “awful” story of abuse? If Victor Frankl can do it, so can they! All about choice at the end of the day.

    Forgive and Move is bette there.


  31. One of the reasons i remember that day. was i saw an unarmed nun.she was not carrying her stick’.it was strange to see her as a person.i have never been able to forget the impression it had on me .

  32. One of my memories was about the day that there was a unexpected visiter. we were told by the nun to put our tools and beads inside the desks. then as we waited the Nun appeared at the door holding a kettle of water.And then went on to teach us how to make tea. this went on for a while. it was the first time that i had seen the nuns worried. but we were all in it together.we were taught that day that nuns could lie . and get away with it .did thay really think that we were all there in late afternoon to learn how to make tea . thats one of the times we had you see if thats honest nuns well thay were teaching how to rob the state .

  33. culchiewoman says:

    Where would we be without the apologists? Let’s take your comments one by one, John:

    1. “The historical context is being overlooked here. The Magdelen [sic] laundries operated in a different time and were established in response to a perceived social need.”

    While many Church-run institutions were established in response to a ‘perceived social need,’ one needs to also look at who or what created that ‘social need.’ And one need look no further than the Catholic Church in establishing the harsh societal mores Irish society lived (or punished) by. Moreover, while similar institutions were regulated and inspected by the State, the Laundries were not. Yet the State used the laundries as punitive solutions, remanding probationers and girls from industrial schools. The nuns were also engaging young girls (as young as 12 — documented) and women in the work of commercial laundering and sewing, but they received no pay and currently draw no pension for that labour. That’s slavery, pure and simple.

    In 1930, Ireland ratified the League of Nations 1926 Slavery Convention, which obliged it to “bring about, progressively and as soon as possible, the complete abolition of slavery in all its forms.” Under this Convention, the state agreed that if it did not at the time adequately punish infractions of its laws and regulations against slavery (which it was also obliged to have), it would “adopt the necessary measures in order that severe penalties may be imposed in respect of such infractions”.

    In 1931, it ratified the 1930 International Labour Organization Forced Labor Convention, undertaking “to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period.” In accordance with this Convention, the state agreed that it would “not impose or permit the imposition of forced or compulsory labour for the benefit of private individuals, companies or associations.” Ireland further accepted under this Convention that “No concession granted to private individuals, companies or associations shall involve any form of forced or compulsory labour for the production or the collection of products which such private individuals, companies or associations utilise or in which they trade.” It also accepted that “The illegal exaction of forced or compulsory labour shall be punishable as a penal offence, and it shall be an obligation on any Member ratifying this Convention to ensure that the penalties imposed by law are really adequate and are strictly enforced.” [O’Rourke, Maeve: ‘O’Rourke on Slavery, Forced Labour and the Magdalene Laundries,’ Human Rights in Ireland].

    Interestingly, the original English Magdalen Asylums were not nearly so punitive, actually teaching prostitutes a trade and sending them back out into society after brief periods. This model, already being dismantled in the UK in the early 20th c., was eagerly grasped by the Catholic religious orders and adapted in more punitive, incarcerative, long-term and ultimately profitable ways. That which one society deemed ‘unacceptable’ and outdated by the early 20th c. suddenly becomes acceptable and even harsher in another society around the same time?

    2. You speak of the laundries as though they existed 50 years ago — a dim historical memory. Yet the last laundry closed as recently as 1996 (66 years after Ireland ratified the above Slavery Convention) and survivors of these institutions are still living, although many quite elderly. They have been stigmatised and traumatised by their experience. Those who got out found living in ‘normal’ society a great hardship due to the regimental institutionalised routines to which they became drones. They didn’t know how to shop, manage a flat, or interact on a personal level.

    3. “The nuns in these institutions were as much victims of their time as anyone else.”

    While I would agree that there were kindly nuns or novitiates (playwright Patricia Bourke-Brogan comes immediately to mind), they were generally not in positions of authority or left their order soon after witnessing the mistreatment of their own gender. In fact, these are the only religious “witness” accounts I’ve ever heard emerge from the orders that ran the Laundries. If you have other “witness accounts,” please do cite them.

    I suggest a thorough reading of the Stanford Prison Experiment to gain a better understanding of how those trained to see themselves as ‘superior’ can so quickly descend to base, cruel treatment of those they believe ‘lesser than’ themselves. I also highly recommend Professor James Smith’s ‘Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment.’

    4. “If people are intent on pursuing compensation claims etc, then these should be pursued in the courts before a judge and jury.”

    By pursuing justice for survivors in the manner we have (and with marked success, I might add), we avoid thrusting vulnerable, aging survivors into courtroom scenarios, where they could easily be taken advantage of by ‘legal professionals’ such as yourself. We’ve already seen what happened with the 2002 Redress Act — gagging orders, survivors being bullied, etc. — and do not wish a repeat.

    And again, if the nuns have a different story to tell, they’ve been curiously silent (citations, please). JFM tried on numerous occasions to engage in dialogue with the four religious orders, particularly after Cardinal Brady met with us and said that JFM offered “a fair and balanced” account, and he expressed his wish that other religious (most notably the leaders of the Conference of Religious of Ireland/CORI and relevant religious congregations) would engage JFM in dialog and ensure restorative justice for Magdalene survivors. []
    To date, they have refused to meet with us.

    The church is certainly not censored in the media — I know many journalists who have covered our work and eagerly sought the ‘opposing viewpoint’ from the Church, only to be told ‘no comment.’

    The most important aspect of justice that the women have yet to receive is a formal apology from Church and State. This would free so many of them from the burden of misplaced shame. To this day my own mother can talk sadly but openly about the time spent at the Bessborough mother-and-baby home where I was born, yet cannot bring herself to discuss the ten years prior where she did fine sewing and embroidery in the Good Shepherd Waterford Laundry, all because she herself had had the ‘audacity’ to be born out of wedlock.

    If we want to start placing all of the actions of history into the ‘context of the times,’ then what next? Shall we excuse the Holocaust and just say that’s simply what Germans did to Jewish people back then? Wrong is wrong…I don’t care when it happened. And I see no ‘irony’ in modern-day Ireland struggling to deliver social services once provided by religious orders. I find it a sad indictment of the government’s willing collusion with and delegation to the Church of its most ‘cherished’ citizens. Had it built its own services infrastructure and not bordered on theocracy, perhaps we would not be debating this topic today.

  34. This is also about people who have good memories. But as you say the media will not take any notice.How can a young women judge other people. Many of them were brought up thinking of themselves as having been chosen by Jesus himself.I remember before i was taken to court and condemed for ten years. in no other country were children imprisoned at the age of six. But in the outside world even in the houses and flats people lived and loved thier kids. it not about history its also about the fact that it had been clear for many years that the nuns and priests believed that this life was less important than the next .So thay did not care about the future of thier the 50ths there were a lot of pys advising about child caring.fraud was known by were others.Anna fraud had been working on child care . i am not sure about the years. but in the outside world i never saw anyone beat thier kids as often and this for the slightest reason . There is a big difference between a smack and a beating with heavy sticks. there was no reason to tell us constantly that our lives were in thier hands.None of us can be sure that we are right so refusing to change. learning is constant throughout life. these people were juges each and everyone of them. and there is still the question of wages still unpaid.

  35. John murphy says:

    As a community worker, I have met a lot of nuns (and brothers) in my time and they have been anything but cruel. There are two sides to every story and the nuns into whose care these people were entrusted – by their own families and the State – have as much right to be heard, and believed, as anyone else. As someone from a legal background, I have become increasingly cynical of the Irish media’s reportage on matters concerning anything Catholic. Journalists portray themselves as champions of justice and human rights but see fit to deny such rights to Irish men and women who happen to be members of the clergy! The historical context is being overlooked here. The Magdelen laundries operated in a different time and were established in response to a perceived social need. Religious orders provided many social services at the time and this was just one of them. (Ironically, Irish society is today struggling to come to terms with the withdrawal of the religious orders from the provision of many of these services, particularly in the areas of child and adolescent care and care of the elderly). The nuns who ran these institutions were strict disciplinarians, like most parents, grandparents, teachers, even shopkeepers at the time. Just as the execution of prisoners and the severe chastisement of children were seen as acceptable at the time, so too was the treatment of the women in the laundries. Where do we draw the line? Some of the things that we do today might be viewed as unacceptable in 50 year’s time but do we know any better? Aren’t we just conforming to today’s social norms? The nuns in these institutions were as much victims of their time as anyone else. Just as teachers were taught that the only way to control a class of 50 was with an iron fist, the young nun was taught that many of the women placed in the care of Magdelen institutions had ‘sinned’ and deserved punishment. She fully believed that what she was doing was right. This all happened with the approval of everyone in society at the time. Having said that, there were many good nuns working in the laundries and their are numerous testimonies available to corroborate this although they have been largely ignored/censored by the media. It would be unacceptable in today’s enlightened, pluralist society to censor or fail to acknowledge such good work in the discussion. If people are intent on pursuing compensation claims etc, then these should be pursued in the courts before a judge and jury.

  36. Thats all very true but using these womens lives in laundrys was not honest. some worked for years and years and that work went unpaid . i dont know if slave labour was in use in irish society at the time. But the social changes did not change the work these women did year after year untill 1996 when thay closed down because no one went there unless forced to. the nuns are above all women just like the rest of us.Thay could have been empathic why were so many of them so cruel .

  37. John murphy says:

    With all due respect, this matter has nothing to do with the UN. It is a matter for the Irish authorities who have a thorough knowledge of the social context which gave rise to the establishment of these institutions. Ireland was a completely different place then and while the standards of today can be compared to yesterday, they cannot be applied retrospectively. The Irish state was still executing criminals until 1954 when Michael Manning was the last person to be hanged by Alfred Pierpoint at Mountjoy Prison. The death penalty was only removed from the statute books as recently as 1990. The legal principle that a man cannot be a judge of his own cause is relevant here. This debate must be informed by facts and not opinions so as to accord respect to the human rights of all parties concerned, particularly the members of the Sisters of Charity, human beings whose reputations are being impugned on a regular basis.

  38. If there is even a slight chance of it happening. something that could be nice for them is to be reunited with thier children. Or even just to know in which country thay livee in. not so that thier kids take on the task of looking after them but as women who we can all respect. give them thier pay and thier dignity.

  39. dean casey says:

    It’s about time someone listend to these poor women,maybe now that the U/N have called on our goverment they will finaly do the right ting by these women who have been the real forgotten childern of of our soicety for so long,

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