2,000 Irish children were illegally adopted in US from Magdalene Laundries
McAleese report comes after Irish American survivors pressed Irish government
Up to 2,000 children were illegally exported from Magdalene laundries in Ireland to adoptive parents in the U.S., mainly to wealthy families.
Many of those children are now demanding justice for their birth parents and an apology from the Irish government who they say were totally complicit in the cover-up of what went on. Activists believe the McAleese report is the first step in the right direction.
The children were taken away from their mothers who worked under near slave conditions in the Magdalene Laundry system set up by the state and religious orders.
The Justice for Magdalenes campaign group, founded in the U.S. by a 'Magdalene baby' Mari Steed, has fought a 10-year campaign for an official apology from the Irish State and Catholic Church, and for compensation for all who are still alive.
A key advisory board member James Smith, an associate professor at Boston College, said he hoped the Government was listening.
"The women can no longer be held hostage to a political system.
"Time is of the essence, it is the one commodity many of these women can ill afford," he said.
It is believed that only up to 1,000 women are still alive, the last laundry closed in 1996 and there were ten in total.
Irish American activists have been seeking to make the Irish government responsible for the maltreatment of young Irish women forced to work in Laundries.
According to Mari Steed, spokeswoman of the group Justice for Magdalenes, the Irish government was complicit in the abuse the women suffered. It owes them an apology and compensation.
James M. Smith, an associate professor at the English department and Irish studies program at Boston College states, “The state’s fingerprints are all over this. The state is now conveniently scapegoating the Catholic Church when in fact church and state were partners throughout most of the twentieth century.”
It is hard to know how many women were in the laundries because the religious orders that ran them have not released their records. When they left the Laundries the women tended to emigrate. Many survivors are in the US.
“There are women in America – women in New York, probably in Philadelphia and Chicago too,” Smith says, “Wherever there were large Irish communities in the 1940s and 1950s. Many went into nursing assistant jobs, into healthcare – into institutions, not dissimilar from what they had left.”
Mari Steed herself is the daughter of a former Magdalene. The ten years she spent in a Magdalene Laundry still affects her. A US family adopted Steed and she grew up in Philadelphia. An articulate woman with shoulder-length black hair, Steed now gives talks and writes letters to Irish newspapers. She has set up a facebook group and runs the website MagdaleneLaundries.com.
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