Leslie Carol Botha: Women’s history is so important – yet never taught – so we never learn from our past and the injustice continues into our daughter’s futures.
Magdalene laundries were institutions operated by nuns in which women, called “penitents,” worked at laundry and other for-profit enterprises. These women were denied freedom of movement, they were never paid for their labour, and they were denied their given names and identities.
In 1993, upon the discovery of the 133 graves at High Park Convent, a small group of women formed the Magdalen Memorial Committee (MMC). Originally founded by Patricia McDonald, Bláthnaid Ní Chinnéide and Margo Kelly, they sought to establish a memorial to the 133 women. This included a park bench established in St. Stephen’s Green and a ceremony which took place in 1996. Later, when the remains exhumed from High Park Convent were reinterred at Glasnevin cemetery, memorial gravestones were installed. Poignant tributes are often left at these gravesites including flowers, toys and children’s shoes
Magdalene laundries report to go to Government after summer
July 27, 2012
PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said yesterday “the department does not have a precise date for publication of the report” but “this is unlikely to happen before September . . . where it will in the first instance have to be submitted to Government”.
In his 2011 report on child protection published last Tuesday, special rapporteur Geoffrey Shannon said in reference to Magdalene survivors: “It appears from the reports provided by these women and girls that their treatment constituted slavery.” They were “sent to institutions, in which women and girls were made to work without pay, where physical punishment was practised, doors were locked and escapees were likely to be returned by the police”.
He noted “the prohibition of slavery is a peremptory norm of international law: that is a norm of state practice which is so fundamental that no derogation from it is ever permitted”.
The “need to deal with the matter of accountability and redress in relation to the Magdalene laundries is of vital importance to ensure compliance with international human rights law”, he said. He also said the State had “long resisted taking responsibility for its part in the horrendous treatment of these vulnerable members of Irish society.”