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Monday 19 February 2018

Magdalene Laundries campaigner calls for removal of Sisters of Mercy statue in Dublin

Statue erected in Ennis in 2011 has sparked heavy debate among locals in Co Clare (Photo: Barry Wrafter)
Statue erected in Ennis in 2011 has sparked heavy debate among locals in Co Clare (Photo: Barry Wrafter)

Claire Fox and Cillian Sherlock

A Magdalene Laundries campaigner has called for the removal of a statue dedicated to the Sisters of Mercy outside a former laundry in Dublin.

Patricia McDonald, founder of Justice for Magdalene Laundries, told Joe Duffy on RTE Radio One's Liveline that the statue of a nun welcoming a poor woman and baby outside the Sisters of Mercy convent does not reflect the suffering that women experienced at the laundry.

"It does not record the actual reality of suffering and distress experienced by generations of women. It's inappropriate. I'm not decrying the piece. It's a nice piece of art," she said.

Ms McDonald grew up in the Baggot Street area of Dublin and recalled how she would see the women emerging from the back of laundry but didn't understand the significance of what they were doing.

"I remembered as a child seeing huge wooden doors open occasionally and steam coming out and women in uniforms appearing out in the lane way. As a child I didn't know the significance of that and that it was in fact a laundry," she added.

Ms McDonald's criticism comes after locals in Ennis are opposing a statue dedicated to the Sisters of Mercy located near the site of a former industrial school.

Kathy Ferguson who grew up in the industrial school told Joe Duffy today that the statue should remain on the provision that another memorial is erected dedicated to the children.

"When you look back at the history of Ireland you’re talking about starving, beating and neglecting children in industrial schools," she told the programme.

She recalled how she fell ill in the orphanage and was operated on while she was still awake.

She described the way the children were treated as "absolutely disgraceful".

She said they were all forced to write the same letter every week to say they were okay but never got any replies.

Kathy said she was in the industrial school orphanage in Ennis under the care of the Sisters of Mercy before being brought to England.

"I was in Ennis from December 1948 to December 1955. All I wanted to know was who was I and where was I born. In 1969 I was told the birth certificate that was given to me didn’t belong to me," she said.

Kathy said she got court records which showed that her father was in the British Army.

She said she received medical files which showed she had been given 3 BCG injections in the space of 18 months and wonders whether she had been experimented on.

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