Monday, February 11, 2013

773 stories of terror and tears TOTAL of 773 Limerick women were incarcerated in Magdalene laundry institutions throughout the country since the formation of the State.  
The information came to light in the long-awaited McAleese Report that confirmed a direct State in the workhouses operated by religious orders affiliated to the Catholic Church.  
The inter-departmental inquiry, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, shows Limerick women and girls represented nearly 7 per cent of the national total of 10,012 women kept in the ten laundries run by four religious congregations between 1922 and 1996.
The Good Shepard nuns, a French order, operated a laundry at Clare Street / Pennywell Road from 1858 until 1982. It had capacity for 120 women.
Speaking on Limerick's Live 95, Catherine Lynch, who was a 'penitent' of the Clare Street laundry for four years, said she was sent there by a priest at the age of 14 because she was 'bold'.
"[The nuns] were very strict. We worked hard. You slaved. You stood all day ironing or at the rollers. If you escaped, your hair would be shaved as punishment,"she said.
The main findings of Tuesday's report concluded that:
Over a quarter of the women who were held in the Magdalene laundries were sent in directly by the State.
The State gave lucrative laundry contracts to these institutions, which included the Limerick Army Barracks.
Half of the girls and women incarcerated nationally were under the age of 23. The youngest entrant was nine and the eldest was 89.
40 per cent of the girls and women spent more than a year incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundry system.
'Penitents' had to endure a 'harsh and physically demanding' work environment and many suffered 'confusion and fear'.
The report also found that 93 Limerick women died at the Good Shepard laundry during the 60-year span and 15 of these deaths were not registered properly.
Independent councillor John Gilligan, who successfully campaigned to have the women who died while in the care of Limerick's laundry commemorated at Mount Saint Laurence cemetary, said he's embarrassed by the Government's reaction.
"The State must make a full apology on behalf of Irish society who allowed these institutions to operate. It makes me sick that we are handing over millions to bankers while we can't even offer these women a lousy pension," he said.
In a statement, the Good Shepard Order said it 'sincerely regrets that women experienced hurt and hardship.'
"We were part of the system and the culture of the time. We acted in good faith providing a refuge. It saddens us deeply to hear that the time spent with us, often as part of a wider difficult experience, has had such a traumatic impact on the lives of these women,"
Laundry survivors were excluded from the State's €1 billion compensation scheme for the victims of abuse in industrial schools.
The former Good Shepard asylum is now home to the Limerick School of Art and Design.

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