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Magdalene Nuns Are Not The Villains

Irish Independent, Saturday September 23rd 2006

In 'Plight of the Magdalene girls' (Letters, September 20) the writer asks "who gave the religious the right to imprison these women, and send them on to religious institutions?" and also, "they were never taken to court and charged."

Does she imagine the religious went out and kidnapped these women for the purpose of working in the laundries? One would imagine the Sisters who ran the laundries would have had a far more affluent life than the austerity they chose to live in if that were the case.

Irish Society judged these people, and Irish society charged them. Banish them from home. Hide the disgrace. Don't let the neighbours know. Girls in those days were either seen as "at risk of their mortal soul" if they appeared promiscious, or "in danger from lustful men" if they suffered any mental defects. Where would they have gone if the religious hadn't these institutions to care for them?

Yes, the work was hard, yes, they would have been terrifying places for young girls to live in, and yes, some of the Sisters would have been quite cruel.

But does that mitigate the parents that were ashamed of them, the Government that wouldn't care for them, or Irish society at the time that gave cruel censure to "fallen women" or the mentally disabled?

The remit of the religious orders is to serve the needs of society. At the present day, it is working with the homeless,and the addicted, for example Sr Stan, Sr Consillio, Fr McVery, or helping women working in prostitution (Rhuhama) and so on. Historically it has been to set up schools, hospitals, and care for children in need.

In the past, the State failed the most needy, and the religious took up the slack.

The truth of the institutions is not a deliberate and horrific litany of abuse by the religious orders, it is far worse. It is of a society and State that turned their backs on the most vulnerable: the young, and mentally handicapped, the unwanted, and the infirm.

A society that relied on the religious to serve the most needy, and now refuses to acknowledge, with the same turning of its back, the unbelievable sacrifices, and slave labour the majority of those religious went through to serve those needs.


Plight of the Magdalen Girls
Irish Independent, 20 September 2006

Regarding all that I have read and heard about Kathy O'Beirne's books (yes I have got both of them), we seem to be overlooking one or two things.

Let's look at the facts. Not all the women who were in the Magdalen Laundries were pregnant, but if they were this was not a crime. They were never taken to court or charged. Notice, that the fathers of these children were never charged, or locked up for the whole of their lives. This seems to be a one gender punishment.

Some of these women were given sentences longer than if they had committed murder.

Who gave the religious the right to imprison women and send them on to mental instutitions? What doctors signed these forms?

What a price to pay. No freedom of choice to get married, or have children, to be free, to go where you want, when you want.

Those of us who were in Ireland's industrial schools have been called liars over the last few years and accused of only being in it for the redress.