Dirty laundry | Claire O’Sullivan

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Dirty laundry | Claire O’Sullivan

There should be no demarcation between the actions of the Church and those of the State with regard to the Magdalene Laundries.

In return for taking these women, the nuns got direct capitation grants from the State and also valuable state contracts for cleaning laundry and commercial laundry work from various Government departments and agencies. Such was their faith in the religious orders, the State chose not to supervise the religious orders’ operation of the Magdalene Laundries.

THE State also failed to enforce its own health and safety legislation in the laundries and turned a blind eye to the fact these school-age girls weren’t receiving an education, weren’t being paid for working 12-hour days and had been cut off from family, friends and the outside world.

JFM also demonstrate how the State never ensured that social welfare contributions were being paid for this secret workforce and never questioned why women who were sent in on probation never again exited.

In the words of the report’s authors: “If [as the survivors unanimously say] they were not free to leave, the committee needs then to determine on what basis the State allowed [and indeed helped] one group of Irish citizens [the nuns] to imprison another group [the women and girls] without lawful authority.”

See also William Wall’s extraordinary essay: Slaves and Slavery: The Economy of the Magdalene Laundry and The Industrial School and Conor McCabe’s post Death in Artane, 1935.