More than 10,000 women spent time in Magdalene Laundries across the country between 1922 and 1996.
The inquiry identified five areas where there was direct State
involvement in the detention of women in 10 laundries run by nuns.
were detained by courts, gardaí, transferred by industrial or reform
schools, rejected by foster families, orphaned, abused children,
mentally or physically disabled, homeless teenagers, or simply poor;
* Inspectors, known as “the suits” by the women, routinely checked conditions complied with rules for factories;
* Government paid welfare to certain women in laundries, along with payments for services;
* Women were also enabled to leave laundries if they moved to other
state-run institutions, such as psychiatric hospitals, county and city
homes, and in the company of police, probation, court, or prison
The State also had a role in registering the death of a woman in a laundry.
Survivors have been campaigning for 10 years for an apology from the
State and Catholic Church as well as a transparent compensation scheme.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity religious order ran laundries at
Drumcondra and Seán MacDermott St in Dublin; the Sisters of Mercy in
Galway and Dún Laoghaire; the Religious Sisters of Charity in
Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork; and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in
Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross.
The last laundry, Seán MacDermott St in Dublin’s north inner city, closed in 1996.
Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), an advocacy group, said it is aware of
at least 988 women who were buried in laundry plots in cemeteries across
Ireland and therefore must have stayed for life.
The inquiry could only certify 879.
Some other facts unearthed by the inquiry were that half of the girls
and women put to work were under the age of 23, and 40% — more than
4,000 — spent more than a year incarcerated.
About 15% spent more than five years, while the average stay has been calculated at seven months.
The youngest death on record was 15, and the oldest 95, the report found.
Some of the women were sent to laundries more than once, as records
show a total of 14,607 admissions, and a total of 8,025 known reasons
for being sent to a laundry.
Statistics outlined in the report
are based on records of only eight of the 10 laundries. The other two —
both operated by the Sisters of Mercy in Dún Laoghaire and Galway —
were missing substantial records.
Women were forced into the Magdalene Laundries for a crime as minor as not paying for a train ticket, the report found.
The majority of those incarcerated were there for minor offences, such
as theft and vagrancy as opposed to murder and infanticide.
Only a small number of the women were there for prostitution — despite
the stigma attached to women who were sent to the laundries, who became
known as Maggies, a slang term for prostitute.
The report also
confirmed that a garda could arrest a girl or a woman without warrant
if she was being recalled to the laundry or if she had run away.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he regretted that nothing was done to investigate the laundries until Jul 2011.
“I am sorry that the State did not do more, and the Government
recog-nises that the women alive today who are still affected by their
time in the laundries deserve the best supports that the State can
provide,” he said.
The report said: “None of us can begin to
imagine the confusion and fear experienced by these young girls, in many
cases little more than children, on entering the laundries — not
knowing why they were there, feeling abandoned, wondering whether they
had done something wrong, and not knowing when — if ever — they would
get out and see their families again.
“It must have been
particularly distressing for those girls who may have been the victims
of abuse in the family, wondering why they were the ones who were
excluded or penalised.”
Despite that, the report’s introduction was benign in its account of life in a laundry.
It reported a harsh, physically demanding environment with a cold
atmosphere and a rigid uncompromising work and prayer regime.
However, it found no allegations of sex abuse against nuns and the
torture, beatings, and abuse meted out in the industrial and reform
schools was not present.
Verbal and psychological abuse was
common, alongside the deep hurt felt by the women at their loss of
freedom, the report found.
Women rarely had their heads shaved
as punishment, but rather they had their hair cut back short in a bob,
the report also found.
More than 100 women were spoken to by the inquiry committee, more than half of whom are in nursing homes.