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Irish government to compensate former Magdalene residents

By on Thursday, 27 June 2013

Protesters outside the Dublin parliament earlier this year (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Protesters outside the Dublin parliament earlier this year (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

The Irish government is to provide lump-sum compensation to former residents of the Magdalene laundries.

The moves comes after an independent report released in February found “significant” state involvement in the religious-run institutions, where young women, many placed by the state, worked without pay. The report found that many former residents reported feeling stigmatised as a result of spending time in the institutions.

Under the new compensation plan, Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said approximately 600 women were expected to qualify for the payments, which would not be “dependent on proof of any hardship, injury or abuse”.

While Mr Shatter said it was impossible to give an accurate prediction of total costs as the number of validated applicants had yet to be established, “my officials estimate the total cost of these lump-sum payments would be in the range of € 34.5 million to € 58 million” (£28.9m to £49.5m). The maxium payments will be of €100,000 for those who spent 10 years or more in the laundries.

Following an independent report by Senator Martin McAleese published earlier this year, the Conference of Religious of Ireland expressed the hope that it would “lead to reconciliation and healing for all involved in this very complex matter”.

The independent report said about 10,000 women and girls had worked in Magdalen laundries since 1922, with more than a quarter of referrals made or facilitated by the state. The report also said significant numbers were placed there by their families. Just more than 60 percent of women spent one year or less in the laundries.

The laundries were operated by four religious congregations: the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Religious Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of Mercy. Government officials said they expected the congregations to contribute to the compensation package.

In a statement, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge said “we are willing to meet any woman on an individual basis who has spent time with us and, if they wish, to work with them in the interest of reconciliation and healing.” The congregation said it was seeking clarity on how the report will apply to “women who continue to reside with us.”

The Sisters of Mercy also welcomed the government’s plan and committed to assisting former residents to use the order’s archives to help establish the time they lived with the order.

In a statement the Good Shepherd Sisters expressed the hope that the plan would help bring “healing and reconciliation for the many women who spent time in our care and in the care of others.”

“We will also be more than willing to continue to meet women who had spent time with us, on an individual basis, the Good Shepherd Sisters said.

  • NatOns

    About time too; and time Britain also addressed its woeful disregard for the souls committed to its penal system at home during a more ‘brutal period’ of its history .. for well-known and blind-eyed, historic institutional abuse was only slowly being lacquered over with liberal (sic) ideals in my own lifetime.

    By no means all of those committed to the penal reform system in Britain and Ireland were sweet, innocent, misunderstood boys and girls; still, liked or disliked, even the ruffians and downright depraved required a high standard of care (which is still all too plainly absent in some ‘Children’s Homes’ let alone ‘Youth Detention Centres’) as well as punishment if due (such as it is – or is not) .. and that is before we start on schools and Education Boards!

  • David Lindsay

    Ah, the Magdalene Laundries again. I always pronounce their name “Mawdlin”, like the Oxbridge colleges. Everyone should.

    It would obviously have been better for those girls in trouble to have slept on the streets, wouldn’t it?

    They would have had better lives as the beggars or prostitutes that they would otherwise have been, wouldn’t they?

    They would have been so much better-treated over here in those days, wouldn’t they?

    The work of a washerwoman is beneath human dignity, isn’t it?

    Leaving school at 14 and going into work was otherwise unheard of among people now in their seventies and eighties, wasn’t it?

    No one else of that generation ever experienced violence at work, did they?

    And insofar as there was wrong done, then the Irish State, not the Catholic Church, has clearly accepted the blame for it.

    Since it is the Irish State, not the Catholic Church, that is paying out to the victims of it.

  • TieHard

    I feel really sorry for these tragic women. But I am also glad that the sisters were there for them when no one else was. The sisters had to live similar lives to the women at that time and were working alongside the women for no money either doing the same jobs. I was a volunteer in an English Hospital for what was then called the mentally subnormal in the 1970′s and some of the women had been placed there years previously by their family because they had had a baby out of wedlock. This was how the English coped with what was then a family scandal. You also have to take into account the cultural and economic situation of the average person at the time in Ireland. People were living in dire poverty, no jobs people emigrating the difficult situation.
    A friend of mine who was brought up quite roughly in an orphanage in Ireland in the 60′s puts it like this. “We were about 100 young children and 8 sisters . Of course we were neglected at that ratio ….but the sisters were there for us our parents weren’t.. why blame those poor women doing their best”

  • Julian Lord


  • Frank W

    What? Seriously, what? A women becomes pregnant outside of wedlock. She is shipped of to a laundry. She gives birth and the baby is taken away from her and she spends her life in the laundry.

    Why? Because the catholic church spread the inhuman fallacy that unwed women are without morals. No parent can think this of their child without the pressure exerted from a church of “guiding light”.

    The catholic church set the standard for social behaviour through its government facilitated oppression. No women would have been sent to the laundries of it wasn’t for the catholic church.

    And who benefited from the free labor? who?

    And the sisters beat them and treated them terribly. Just read the testimonies of the women.

    “100 young children and 8 sisters” that is much better than even the best of private schools. A 1:12 ratio…. most teachers would love that ratio. At a time when the church was filthy rich (as it always was rich). Why didn’t the church send more nuns? its not like they had to pay them anything.

  • TieHard

    who spread the fallacy in England that people who have a child born out of wedlock are without moralsand they sent them to hospitals for the mentally subnormal…. you cant blame the catholics but maybe you see an historical cultural problem cutting across many boundaries..and a common problem … but no reading your comment you don’t see this…
    a ratio of 1 to great really? …. 24 hours a day 365 days a year .. not teaching.. but bathing feeding ironing ….. have you looked after 12 children 7 days a week 24 hours a day…. do you think public schools take in babies…. who stays awake to feed the babies in a public school.. what happens when the sisters sleep…what happens when they are ill the children don’t go home for jolly hols……are you choosing to miss the point here?
    I wonder where the more nuns would come from..
    or who is this church who could send in more nuns…..
    if you are a catholic then this church is you…..where were you….if you have such opinions and you are not catholic… what are you doing….
    as my friend said these women were there for him…
    do you hate these women? you sound very vitriolic… do you think this is so Black and White.. were all nuns so bad? or was it a few…
    why are you so anti the church?

    and would anyone who has ever seen evidence of the church being filthy rich come forward and tell me where…….we all know the church spends its money on its social projects or on its buildings…. I have never met or know of anyone making money personally or a religious order making money .. they spend it on spiritual or social projects….only just keeping their head above water….. every penny paid out in compensation is taken from the poor.. materially or spiritually … that is part of the tragedy