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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Ireland agrees to reassess claims of workers in Magdalene laundries

Women who worked in Ireland’s Magdalene laundries but were denied compensation under the state’s Magdalene Restorative Justice program have won their long-running battle to have their applications reassessed.

New legislation will ensure that payments to the women, many now over age 70, will be fast-tracked by the Irish state in an effort to make amends for the delay over their disputed compensation for their time working in the laundries.

The laundries were run by the Mercy Sisters, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, and the Religious Sisters of Charity. The Magdalene redress program was originally established following the publication in February 2013 of the McAleese Report, an inquiry chaired by Sen. Martin McAleese.

Women were sent to these laundries by the state or by their families, usually for the “crime” of being pregnant outside marriage. Some were confined because they were unruly, orphaned or did not fit in. The laundries were part of Ireland’s architecture of moral constraint, along with mother and baby homes, industrial schools and psychiatric hospitals.

The need to extend the government’s redress program was highlighted in 2017 by Peter Tyndall, Irish ombudsman. In his report on the Magdalene Restorative Justice program, Tyndall highlighted that 15 of the complaints under investigation by his office concerned the Department of Justice’s rejection of redress applications by women who had worked in one of the 12 institutions listed as Magdalene laundries in the McAleese Report. The complaints were rejected because the women had not lived in the laundry itself, but in a training centre or industrial school in the same building or located on the same grounds as a Magdalene laundry.

Picture: Gabrielle O’Gorman, in red, attends the 26th August Stand4Truth demonstration in Dublin. O’Gorman, 73, spent six weeks at the Sean McDermott Street laundry before she was sent to the laundry run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Limerick for 2 1/2 years. (CNS photo/courtesy Gabrielle O’Gorman via Global Sisters Report).