Wednesday 18 September 2019

Magdalene survivor (80) awarded five-figure sum after eight-year legal fight

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Cate McCurry

A Magdalene Laundries survivor has been awarded an undisclosed five-figure settlement after she was forced to work unpaid for almost six years.

Mary Cavner (80) won her fight for justice after an eight-year legal battle over the time she spent at one of the notorious institutions.

The mother of five spent years trying to convince the State she worked at the Good Shepherd Convent in Cork from the age of 11, after her father's death.

In 2013, the Government formally apologised to all of the women confined to the institutions and set up a redress scheme for the victims.

But Ms Cavner, who now lives in England, was denied compensation after the authorities claimed she was at St Finbarr's Industrial School which was not listed as part of the scheme.

Ms Cavner was among a number of women who complained to the Ombudsman. A report in November 2017 recommended the scheme be extended to associated and adjoining institutions, which the Government adopted.

Ms Cavner's daughter Mandie claimed the Government produced attendance records for her at a school despite her not being allowed a single day at school after entering the laundry.

The Ombudsman ruled Ms Cavner was eligible for the redress scheme and awarded her a five-figure settlement.

Mandie said: "My mum didn't have a single day of education when she was in the laundry, but we were sent records that showed she had been at school every day for years.

"She worked from the moment she entered the laundry and didn't stop for almost six years.

"When we said that these records were false they settled the claim, but how many other women were told the same thing and just gave up as they didn't have anyone to fight for them?

"Throughout this process mum has been called a liar and the way these women have been treated is disgusting."

She said they took away her mother's childhood.

Ms Cavner was born in Cork in 1939 and was made a ward of court in 1951 following her father's death.

She spent five years and 10 months at the workhouse where she looked after the babies of so-called 'fallen women', cleaned and worked in the laundries.

In the evenings, she would serve the nuns their dinner, before her day ended at 10pm.

Mary suffered from hunger and malnourishment and received no education from the time she arrived.

Irish Independent

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