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Magdalen Laundries Report Released, But Irish State Stops Short Of Offering An Official Apology

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On Tuesday, Ireland Senator Martin McAleese released a report on Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries, where 30,000 women and girls were enslaved in Catholic Church-run laundries between 1922-1996. (The Laundries actually existed since the 1700s, but the free state of Ireland was only established in 1922.) McAleese’s report specifically focused on uncovering the Irish State’s involvement in the Laundries and, as survivors have long claimed, found that, according to the Guardian, “the state and the Irish police force bore a major responsibility for sending the women there and failing to protect their rights as workers.”

Women and girls who were considered “troubled” or morally “fallen” — i.e. unwed mothers and girls who were deemed “loose” or wild — were sent against their will to the Church-run laundries to live and work, receiving no pay, no pension, and no protection. The McAleese report found that the women and girls were used as free labour and that the labour laws were repeatedly broken. Women and girls who died in the Laundries were often buried in unmarked graves. Babies born to the “Maggies” were taken from their mothers, often never seeing them again. The report detailed that a quarter of the women sent to the Laundries (for whom records exist) were sent by the state; that the state gave these laundries lucrative contracts but did not abide by fair wage clauses; and that the state was responsible for inspecting the laundries and thus allowed them to be run in manner that was illegal and amoral. Keep reading »

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