Our primitive Catholic, pseudo-Gaelic State laid foundations for Magdalenes
THERE has, very properly, been a great deal of national soul-searching and agonising over the scandal of the Magdalene Laundries. But if you want the best explanation for the very existence of the laundries, it is in a book that doesn't mention them at all, Bill McCormack's stunningly brilliant 'Dublin 1916: The French Connection'. This work, through quite outstandingly original scholarship, proposes that the revolutionaries of 1916 were most powerfully influenced by a virulent and nationalistic form of Catholicism which had emerged in France in the late 19th Century.
So, what the men and women of 1916 set out to do was precisely what was then achieved in independent Ireland. Unquestioned authority over both education and health was freely handed over to the Catholic religious orders, and nobody, but nobody, was in any doubt about how those orders behaved.
The Magdalene Laundries were not some departure from the underlying spirit of 1916, they were its very embodiment. This placed authority above mercy; power above charity; submission above freedom; consensus above individuality.