2,000 Irish children were illegally adopted in US from Magdalene Laundries
McAleese report comes after Irish American survivors pressed Irish government
Smith is the author of Ireland's Magdalene Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment, a book that won him the distinguished First Book award at the American Conference for Irish Studies in 2007.
Meanwhile the survivors are getting older. “It’s so important for us to get oral histories, and to try to get compensation for them,” Mari Steed says. “They’re going to start dying out. Perhaps that’s what the government is hoping.”
Historical Context :
• Magdalene Laundries were institutions operated by nuns in which women, called “penitents,” worked at laundry and other for profit enterprises
• These women were denied freedom of movement, they were never paid for their labor, and they were denied their given names and identities
• The daily routine emphasized prayer, silence, and work
• Women had to be signed out of the Magdalene
• Many remained to live, work, and ultimately die, behind convent walls
• After 1922, Magdalene Laundries were operated by The Sisters of Mercy (Galway and Dun Laoghaire), The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity (Drumcondra and Sean MacDermott Street, Dublin), the Sisters of Charity (Donnybrook and Cork), and the Good Shepherd Sisters (Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross)
• All four Congregations are members of CORI and also managed state residential institutions
• The nuns do not release records for women entering the laundries after 1 January 1900
• The last Magdalene ceased operating as a commercial laundry on 25 October 1996.
Mr. Batt O’Keeffe, T.D., then Minister for Education and Science, rejected JFM’s proposal for an apology and distinct redress scheme on 4 September 2009. He claimed:
• The state is only liable for children transferred from residential institutions
• The laundries were privately owned and operated
• The state did not refer individuals nor was it complicit in referring individuals to the laundries
JFM contends that the state was always complicit in the laundries’ operation. Moreover, this complicity, along with the state’s omission of due diligence to regulate or inspect the laundries, breached the Magdalene women’s constitutional and human rights.
JFM asserts that the Irish state:
• was aware of the nature and function of the Magdalene laundries
• was aware that there was no statutory basis for the courts’ use of the laundries
• enacted legislation to enable the use of one laundry as a remand home
• was aware that children and adolescent girls were confined in the laundries as late as 1970
• maintained a “special provision” whereby women giving birth to a second child outside marriage at a Mother-and-Baby could be transferred directly to a Magdalene laundry
• paid capitation grants to Magdalene laundries for the confinement of “problem girls”
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