A religious order has refused to offer any explanation as to why four women who died in its care are named as being buried in two different locations.
The four women who were incarcerated in The Good Shepherd
Sisters Magdalene laundry in Cork are listed on headstones at mass
graves in two different locations in Cork.
Another woman with a
distinctive first name is listed twice on the same headstone at another
site but with different dates of death two months apart. The women died
on dates ranging from as far back as 1882 right up until 1983.
The duplicated names appear on Magdalene graves on two separate graves
at St Joseph’s Cemetery and on another headstone at a mass grave at the
site of the laundry itself in Sunday’s Well.
One of the
graves in St Joseph’s Cemetery was only discovered last summer by the
Justice For Magdalenes (JFM) group. It also located a fourth grave at
Kilcully Cemetery which appears to be later burials from the Good
Shepherd and Peacock Lane laundries.
In total, some 188 women
are buried at the four sites between 1875 and 2011. It is unclear
whether death certificates exist for all of the women buried in the
As well as the issue of the duplication of names on
headstones, JFM has raised concerns about the condition of the mass
grave at Sunday’s Well.
Containing the names of 30 women, it
is inaccessible in an overgrown part of the complex while the large
cross above the headstone has been vandalised and broken up into pieces.
The headstone and names were only placed on the grave by the
order following a campaign by a former resident of the laundry Mary
Norris in the late 1990s. The nuns are buried in a separate and
well-kept area of the property.
Claire McGettrick of JFM said
the Good Shepherd Sisters called on the order to provide accurate
records for all the women who resided at Sunday’s Well laundry.
“It is disturbing that in 2013, there are 30 women and girls in
Sunday’s Well who are afforded no dignity in death because there is no
easy or safe way to access their final resting place. It is of serious
concern that there are discrepancies and gaps in three of the four grave
locations for the Good Shepherd in Sunday’s Well.
or possibly more women and girls who died in their charge deserve to
have adequate and accurate records of their life and death, as is
afforded to any other citizen of Ireland,” she said.
raised concerns about the large gap in years, roughly between the early
1890s and early 1920s during which no names are recorded at any of the
grave sites. It has called on the Good Shepherd Sisters to reveal if
there are any other sites where women who were in its care are buried or
if more women are buried at the current sites.
The Good Shepherd Convent operated a Magdalene laundry and orphanage on the Sunday’s Well site from 1874 until late 1977.
While there are no publicly available figures for the number of women
and children who passed through the institution, newspaper records show
courts sending women there well into the 1970s. The Irish Examiner sent a
series of questions to the Good Shepherd Sisters, asking for clarity
on the duplicated names and if it is in possession of records for the
women who resided at the laundry, It declined to respond to any of the
queries or issue any comment.