Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries will have their stories shared in a new collection of online archives.
The oral histories of those who lived and worked within the Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools in the South-East of Ireland have been collected by the Justice for Magdalenes Research group and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), The Irish Post reports.
A number of revelations in recent years have exposed the horrific conditions of these Catholic Church-run institutions, which operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. In 1993, an unmarked mass grave containing 155 corpses was found underneath a laundry in Dublin.
The searchable database consists of thousands of documents.
Dr Jennifer O’ Mahoney and Kieran Cronin, who have been working on the project for the last few years, believe the collected material establishes that the state was complicit in the operation of the laundries.
The Irish Examiner has reported that material in the archive shows how thousands of women were held against their will and that some girls may have been sent directly from the criminal justice system into the laundries as a form of internment.
"Women wouldn't have been sent very typically to prisons at the time, and this is where they were sent instead,” says Dr O’Mahoney, a psychologist based at Waterford Institute of Technology.
"So, it's any document like that showing that the state was directly involved in girls ending up behind the walls of a laundry."
According to Dr O' Mahoney: "This project is about more than research and educational pursuits; there is a genuine responsibility to recognize the trauma these women suffered in silence, and respond to their needs and desire to disseminate their stories according to their wishes. As Principal Investigator for this project, I am both honored and humbled by these women and their bravery to publicly tell their stories. This project is not about giving the Magdalene survivors a voice – it is about providing the platform for their voice to be heard, coupled with professional analysis."
The original archives are housed at WIT, while the digitized archive will also be made available to the public at UCD archives.
A list of the recordings is available on the Waterford Memories Project website.