Apology for workhouse women

The Irish Government has apologised to the thousands of women locked up in Catholic-run workhouses known as Magdalene laundries between 1922 and 1996. Records have confirmed 10,012 women spent time in the workhouses across the country.

Advertisement

Inquiry's findings into everyday life in a laundry

The inquiry found the following about everyday life in a laundry:

  • It reported, a harsh and physically demanding environment with a cold atmosphere and a rigid uncompromising work and prayer regime.
  • Both verbal and psychological abuse was common.
  • It was rare for a woman to have her head shaved as punishment but they had their hair cut back short in a bob.

More than 100 women were spoken to by the inquiry committee, more than half of whom are in nursing homes.

Majority sent to Magdalene laundries for minor offences

The majority of women forced into Magdalene laundries were there for minor offences such as theft and not paying for a train ticket.

A small number of women were there for prostitution - despite the stigma attached to those who were sent to the laundries and became known as Maggies, a slang term for prostitute.

The report also confirmed that a garda could arrest a girl or a woman without warrant if she was being recalled to the laundry or if she had run away.

In numbers: The Magdalene laundries scandal

The inquiry into Magdalene laundries found the following statistics:

  • Around 50% of the girls and women put to work were under the age of 23.
  • 40% - more than 4,000 - spent more than a year incarcerated.
  • Some 15% spent more than five years while the average stay has been calculated at seven months.
  • The youngest death on record was 15 and the oldest 95.
  • Some of the women were sent to laundries more than once - records show a total of 14,607 admissions, and a total of 8,025 known reasons for being sent to a laundry.

The statistics outlined in the report are based on records of only eight of the 10 laundries with the Sisters of Mercy operated Dun Laoghaire and Galway missing from the records.

Advertisement

Justice for Magdalenes: Women entered voluntarily claims wrong

It can no longer be claimed that these institutions were private and that 'the vast majority' of the girls and women entered voluntarily as has been claimed by former minister Batt O'Keeffe and testimony before the UN Committee Against Torture given by Sean Aylward, the former secretary general of the Department of Justice.

– The Justice for Magdalenes group

Magdalene survivors reject Kenny's apology

Survivors of Magdalene laundries have rejected Taoiseach Enda Kenny's apology and demanded a fuller admission from the government and the religious orders involved.

That is not an apology. He is the Taoiseach of our country, he is the Taoiseach of the Irish people, and that is not a proper apology.

– Maureen Sullivan, Magdalene Survivors Together

Another survivor Mary Smyth said she endured inhumane conditions in a laundry, which she said was worse than being in prison

I will go to the grave with what happened. It will never ever leave me.

– Mary Smyth

'988 women' buried in laundry plots across Ireland

Magdalene Laundries
A memorial plaque to victims of the Magdalene Laundries in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Credit: Julien Behal/PA Wire

The Justice for Magdalenes group said it was aware of at least 988 women who are buried in laundry plots in cemeteries across Ireland and therefore must have stayed for life, however, the inquiry could only certify 879.

The last laundry, Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin's north inner city, closed in 1996.

Kenny regrets 'stigma' of Magdalene laundries women

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has apologised for Magdalene laundries. Credit: Barry Cronin/PA Wire

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said action should have been taken before to clear the names and reputations of the women put to work in Magdalene laundries.

He said: "That the stigma, that the branding together of the residents, all 10,000 needs to be removed and should have been removed long before this and I'm really sorry that that never happened, and I regret that never happened.

"I'm sorry that this release of pressure and understanding of so many of those women was not done before this, because they were branded as being the fallen women, as they were referred to in this state."

Load more updates