By Helen McBride
Prompted by the UN Committee against Torture in 2011 to set up an inquiry, the Irish government has released a report on State collusion with the Catholic Church in the treatment of girls and women in the work houses known as the Magdalene Laundries. These Laundries were run by four Roman Catholic orders of nuns.
The laundries were institutions started by the Catholic Church in 1922, in which thousands of vulnerable women were incarcerated. While in reality those sent to the laundries were products of poverty, homelessness, and dysfunctional families, the myth of the “bad girl” and “fallen woman” sent to the laundries to reform has persisted. Those that were sent to these institutions spent months or years in hard labour, with no access to education, little respect and in many cases lived in constant fear. Work included doing laundry for hotels, hospitals and prisons.