Irish religious forced labour scandal

This video says about itself:

The Magdalene Sisters

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

Written and directed by Peter Mullan and starring Eileen Walsh, Dorothy Duffy, Nora-Jane Noone, Anne-Marie Duff, and Geraldine McEwan, The Magdalene Sisters is based on true events depicted in the documentary, Sex in a Cold Climate.

Mullan’s film tells the story of three Dublin women in 1964, fictional composites of real cases. Abandoned by society and cast out by their families for crimes they did not commit, these women found themselves stripped of their liberty and dignity and condemned to indefinite sentences of manual labor. Within the church-run Magdalene Laundries, they were forced into institutional servitude in order to cleanse themselves of the “sins” of which they had been accused.

The Magdalene Laundries were institutions sponsored and maintained by the Catholic Church in Ireland for the incarceration of young women thought to be a moral danger to themselves and others – unmarried mothers or simply girls who were considered hussies and whores, no better than they should be.

With the legal consent of their fathers, they were imprisoned and made to work for no pay in imitation of Mary Magdalene in laundries, always exploited and in many cases sexually abused. The laundries existed until the 1970s, but the very last did not close until 1996. Peter Mullan has remarked that the film was initially made because victims of Magdalene Asylums had received no closure in the form of recognition, compensation, or apology, and many remained lifelong devout Catholics. Former Magdalen inmate Mary-Jo McDonagh told Mullan that the reality of the Magdalene Asylums was much worse than depicted in the film.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Kenny: no apology for workhouses

Tuesday 05 February 2013

by Our Foreign Desk

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his personal regret today to the victims of the Catholic church’s scandalous Magdalene Laundries scheme and admitted government complicity in the business.

But his regrets didn’t amount to a formal government apology and fell far short of what had been demanded by campaigners.

An 18-month investigation into the shameful workhouses went into the Irish state’s involvement in the vicious exploitation of vulnerable women in the Catholic church’s chain of Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996.

Senator Martin McAleese‘s inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was prompted by a report from the UN committee against torture in June 2011.

But the report went nowhere near reflecting the criticisms of campaigners and the victims themselves, minimising both the number of victims and the depth of their suffering.

Contrary to claims by some victims, Mr Kenny told the Dail that the report found no evidence of sexual abuse in the laundries, that 10 per cent of inmates were sent by their families and 19 per cent entered of their own volition.

The money-spinning chain of laundries was run by four orders of nuns, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, Mercy, Charity and the Good Shepherd.

The state sent girls and women into the laundry system through courts and mother-and-baby homes and then abandoned them.

The women earned nothing and were even deprived of their names.

They were locked in and forced to work long hours in dreadful conditions.

Women who tried to escape were rounded up by police and returned.

Girls as young as two were consigned to the laundries and left there to work unpaid, some for the rest of their lives.

The Irish government has acknowledged that women in the laundries were abuse victims, but the victims have received no compensation.

It is doubtful if they will let the issue rest there.

32 thoughts on “Irish religious forced labour scandal

  1. I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that what happened at the Magdalene Sisters Asylum is a crime against humanity and should be punished severly.This is a case of slavery and this institute made a lot of money by the forced labour at the laundry.The present gov. of Ireland should apologize for this crime and compensate the women who are still alive that were affected by this.From what i have heard the gov. has not done this.A class action lawsuit should be filed against the gov.because the complicit in this crime since they are not doing anything about it and not apologizing.Im sure the majority of people in Ireland would support this move.


    • There is a strong movement in Ireland now to have a more thorough investigation than the government did.

      That sadly won’t be able to change the past, but may contribute to preventing similar things happening in the future.


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  4. The Magdalene Laundries scandal could only have happened in Ireland ! Only in Ireland, have governments worked so hand-in –hand with the Catholic Church. However, I am glad to see the support for the Catholic Church has slipped drastically in the country in recent years. This false Christian church needs to be boycotted because their teachings and practices contradict the Bible. If you want to know what the Bible really says on lots of issues, visit the following website and then click on each of the 20 headings in the left hand column: .


    • Hi Kieran, Ireland is not the only country with close links between the Roman Catholic Church and governments. There are also, eg, Spain, several Latin American countries, Poland, and more.

      Also in Canada, the Roman Catholic church is involved in the scandal of the boarding schools for Native American children, of whom many died. See

      However, in Canada, that was not an exclusive Roman Catholic problem. It was also an issue of other churches with close links to the government.


      • Hi Petre41, I accept that in orther countries practices have gone on between churches and governments that were unfair to some people. However, in Ireland the Catholic Church is given a special status under the constitution ,written in the 1930’s, which puts this false Christian church on a pedestal above all other churches. Consequently, an unhealthy relationship has existed for decades between it and successive governments which needs to be addressed by new laws putting all faiths on an equal footing.


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