Tuesday 12 December 2017

Emer O'Kelly: Religious must pay for warping our society

The system that produced the Magdalene Laundries is part of our psyche

Gabrielle O'Gorman, who escaped from Gloucester Street Laundries and was captured and sent by the State to Limerick Magdalene Laundries. In the region of 10,000 women and girls were made to do unpaid manual labour in laundries run by Catholic nuns between 1922 and 1996.
Gabrielle O'Gorman, who escaped from Gloucester Street Laundries and was captured and sent by the State to Limerick Magdalene Laundries. In the region of 10,000 women and girls were made to do unpaid manual labour in laundries run by Catholic nuns between 1922 and 1996.

Emer O'Kelly

'Sacred heart o' Jesus, take away our hearts o' stone an' give us hearts o' flesh." In 1924, Sean O'Casey put that passionate prayer into the mouth of Mrs Tancred, standing on the stairs of a Dublin tenement. Nobody listened then to his cry for the voiceless; we remained deaf for generations.

But last Tuesday a group of women sat in the visitors' gallery of our national parliament, moved to tears and cheers as a Taoiseach who had listened broke down on the floor of the house. The women had spoken often of a "stigma". The only stigma is that they had to wait until most of them were old before the moment came.

The women incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries were there against their will. According to several of the women's representatives, the report delivered by former Senator Martin McAleese fell short in many ways; one of the most glaring was to write of "self-referral".

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