Wednesday, February 06, 2013

'Trail of tears' reveals betrayal of young, infirm and vulnerable women were betrayed by health authorities and ended up in Magdalene Laundries after being in psychiatric hospitals, acute hospitals, foster care and mother and baby homes.

The trail of tears outlined in the report revealed how, even in the 1970s, a girl as young as 11 ended up in a laundry.

"Some referrals were of very young girls and it was not always clear why," according to the McAleese report.

The youngest referred from a hospital or by a medical professional was just 13 years old and the oldest was 71.

One case highlighted invol- ved a man who sought advice about placing his daughter in a laundry because she was "somewhat retarded".

There were five or six laundries approved as institutions for people deemed in need of public assistance and the State paid their maintenance costs.

There was "no obligation on the girl or woman referred in this way to enter the institution" but it was not possible for the inquiry committee to determine if this was ever made clear to the people in question.

A number of girls ended up in the laundries after they were abandoned by their foster families when they reached the age for which maintenance payments for their care stopped.

The report revealed: "Although there was no single thread or common policy running through these referrals, a cost-benefit analysis was applied by health authorities in at least some cases. The committee found instances where decisions to approve the transfer or an indigent, homeless, disabled or psychiatrically ill girl or woman to a Magdalene laundry hinged on the fact that such as transfer was more effective than making direct provision for her in a facility operated by the health authorities."

It found that referrals from mother and baby homes to the laundries also happened, although less frequently than sometimes assumed.

In some of these cases the desire was to "protect rate-payers from the costs of repeated pregnancies outside marriage".

It found records of two women in the 1930s who were referred to in the minutes of a county hospital committee.

The matron wanted an ambulance to "convey two unmarried mothers to a Good Shepherd Home outside the county".

She said they were "deplorable cases and in the interests of public morality should be placed under restraint".

In most cases the women were sent to the laundries through a mix of official agencies and their families.

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