Is $34.5 Million Enough for Ireland's Magdalene Victims?

What do you think of the Irish government's announcement yesterday that it would provide the estimated 770 living victims of Catholic Church-run Magdalene laundries at least $34.5 million to compensate them for their months and years, even decades of forced labor?

In remarks to former Magdalenes, Justice Minister Alan Shatter apologized to the women and said he hoped they would accept the government's compensation plans as "a sincere expression of the state's regret for failing you in the past, its recognition of your current needs, and its commitment to respecting your dignity and human rights as full, equal members of our nation."

Here's some related information:

Ireland to pay $45 million to Catholic laundry workers (CBS News)

Irish Cillini and Magdalene Laundry Panel with Linda Evangelista, Toni Maguire, Mari Steed, Gerry Regan

'The Magdalene Sisters' Hits America's Shores


Tags: Faith, Magdalenes

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I have really enjoyed Gael Murphy's comments.  I don't know what she does as to employment, but she speaks with conviction and great awareness, in my opinion, of the Irish Magdelenes and the Church and the Irish people.  A little strong, but behind it, one can feel her pain.  From where, what, I do not need to know.

Yes, O'Domhaill loses me when he refers to other times.  His half a century ago finds me just in my late 30s, having worked inside the Catholic Church, having been to Ireland twice, having  IRA friends and supported that cause as best I could, and having studied about all these things, already, for years.

O'Dom had a career with schools, admirable.  I feel it must have been in Catholic schools, as he sounds like the defensiveness I have always heard from priests and nuns.   Yes, the finger of blame must be pointed.  The British, yes.   They had and still have tremendous influence to help or hinder the Irish.  When have they helped much on the Magdalenes, on starving our people unnecessarily during the famine, in taking our lands, in their black and tans,  sending assault troops after 1969, in never apologizing (except Tony Blair did a bit) They should pay whether the holocaust was in the 1970s or famine time.  ODom says the bottom line is about money.  That the way all the right wingers I have know think.  The bottom line, he knows, is about what both sides learned and can change.  Morality was had by many, many--back to Dickens.   The Church, priests and nuns were in stronger positions to do something.  And whether back in my parents/grandparents time in Eire, or in Pennsylvania with the Mollies; the Church left us, and only an occasional priest has spoken out, and did something.  Only about one priest was there to support Wm Smith O'Brien, and he was not there in the end either.  Irish situations are complex.  Not simple solutions as we often offer.  You could/did have a brutalizing nun on one side and a caring compassionate nun sometimes, opposite that.

But what goes in at the top is what comes out and the top was/is The Church aka The Vatican, and the  The Government.  My grandparents and on back into the 1700s, were scared to death of the Priests.  They believd, as a prominent Irish writer reported, that a priest could turn them into a goat. No they were not educated; remember they were not allowed to attend school openly and even be a Catholic until c. 1815-25.

ODom, I can hear him defending Joan Of Arc's killer priests.  The good nuns doing so much.  Too bad too many bad apples in the barrel so they must all take the heat!   Who has broken our Church?  Pedaphile priests.   Disturbed nuns.  Our family members have exited in droves now for 50 years.IOur Church has left us.  We need to get it back, our way. 

When inside the Church working, I noticed unbelievable numbers of priests and nuns, not screened, with serious mental health problems, paranoia, depression, obsessions, ideas of grandeur  etc.

An example:  a nun transferred from one Diocese to another.    Paranoid priests believing the people were anti clerical, on and on.   Insulting directly as if untouchable. Going off to treatment centers,secretly, all the time; for alcoholism, and symptoms of illness.  Hush Hush. 

ODom was probably one of the many school teachers who supplemented their income taking UMs into his home,and then talking about them and acting as if he was caring for lepers.  I could introduce him to dozens of exceedingly intelligent UMs, successful in life, helping and caring for others without labeling them    I would not jump for joy if my daughter were to become an UM.  I would support here totally.

By the way ODOM,  Do you masturbate?  (99% of all people do.  1% lie.)

Sadly, I have found that a school person's view of life needs to be kept in the realm of education; which has also hit an all time low in many places.

your tone is offensive and detached from the realities of life in Ireland so I will not waste my time with you.

The Magdalene Asylums were closed in 1996.  This is not something that ended in the olden days to which Mr. Burke refers.  It is the Catholic Church's teaching that sex is evil, that women are dangerous and must be controlled, that having sex made women soiled goods.  The nuns were the keepers of these prisons.  They were the abusers.  They taught the sick message of self hate for our bodies.  Don't just BLAME the dear nuns, throw them in prison for false imprisonment, beatings, kidnappings, the sale of kidnapped children, and more crimes.  The state should not pay restitution.  Our Holy Mother, The Holy Roman Catholic Church should pay huge restitution.  Members of this violent criminal organization should go to prison.  Mr. Burke defends, " nuns who are being castigated and vilified"  No, don't just "castigate" them, hang them!. 

not sure if the laundry was still operating a s a business until the nineties. The nuns provided a shelter for women, and still do, who have nowhere else to go. I know plenty of women who are looked after by the nuns.

the days of 'churching' are long since gone. I am not quite sure what you mean about kidnappings Gael?

In the end the taxpayer will foot the bill.

The working laundries were closed in 1996, not sooner.  Ask the victims.  The children of these "fallen women" were sold. That is kidnapping.  The girls were not allowed to keep their bastard children.   I pity any poor women being "looked after" by the nuns.  Ronan, read the statements of the more recent captives, or are they just a bunch of whores?

Ronan has given a very honest reply. I too would be more inclined to be critical of the State, the parents who put them in the laundries and who hesitated to take the back when the baby was born. These parents wouldn't let the girls keep the baby because they couldn't bear the "Shame". It just wasn't the nuns who failed these young women, although they bear the burden of most of the criticism and vilification. We also need to remember that this type of discipline was common place in that time. Ireland wasn't the only country who practiced this nor, was the Catholic Church the only Religious group to do so. This should not be the only legacy the nuns are known for. They have done, and continue to do great works of charity, teaching and caring for the sick in third world countries around the world. No!, the Government/State should not pay restitution. The Church,families and all who played a role should all be held accountable. Once the Government gets involved it just gets worse. Yes, it is John Q Citizen who will pay.

For too long, the Church and the Government of Ireland were joined at the hip. That's why it's difficult to many of us to establish a percentage of blame that should go to each in the Magdalene affair. I'm a firm believer that Ireland is better off with the arms-length distance it keeps the Catholic church away today, even though the image of Church & State arms linked may feel comfortable to the nostalgic.

As Ger was hinting at earlier (forgive me if I'm misrepresenting you, Gerry), the natural antagonist for the patriarchal Roman Catholic church has always been the matriarchal Irish society brought down from the Celts, No surprise that women have been the major victims of the institutional church in this century.

Would you see your mother, sister, aunt, or cousin locked away by the state and the nuns? Of course not, nor would I. These women were denied life times of living free by the nuns, $34.4 million dollars amounts to no more than an insult to the many women that were prisoners. Sometime, we must do more! And this is such a time!

Bill O'Leary, Kurch 

@Billy. It was their own families who had them locked away/swept under the carpet. The nuns took them in when their own families turned them out. Ireland of the sixties was a hard place. There was no such thing as a free lunch back then, ergo the labour, which living in a state where you can live on government handouts must seem strange.

The nuns themselves were locked in and lucky if they were allowed out once a year. Of course by our standards the magdalenes must seem terrible, but Ireland was somewhat different back then. The girls were beaten, which also seems horrific.I was beaten by the nuns in the eighties. That is the way things were back then.

The funny thing is that those who were incarcerated in the Bethany homes (the Protestant equivalent of the Magdalenes) will not receive any compensation. The thinking seems to be that only the Catholic church did any wrong.

The nuns also ran the hospitals which were spick and span unlike today. 

The nuns and priests, and all the rest of us Irish Catholics grew up in the same families.  Each family was expected to raise a nun and a priest.  All of us were shamed for human feelings, sexual feelings, kindly feelings, ANY feelings!  Who did the shaming, who offered the guilt, who beat us, who sent us to confession as unworthy sinners, when we were sweet, innocent children?  Nuns and priests that's who.  The Irish were sickened by the Catholic Church.  Our country was handed over by the pope to the English King to "civilize" us.  They crippled us!  We are a sick, self hating race.  Our pride is phony!  We think our bodies are just temptations for sin.  Let's grow the Hell up!  Reject the shaming, pedophilic  priesthood.  The corrupt, greedy, magalomaniac papacy.  The modest, self-sacrificing, nuns with their painful yardsticks.  Let's be just, compassionate, loving, physically affectionate, and realistic.  Ireland was recently the most literate country in Europe.  Why do the Irish continue to cripple ourselves with this sick and evil church?  Why can't we just grow up?

You make many sweeping generalisations here, but we thrive on a victim culture. In the eighties you could blame all your woes on the British, the nineties the Irish language, now the church.

You and other neglect to mention that Magdalenes also operated in Britain, Protestant Britain. From the seventies onwards women were not sent by their families to the Magdalens. Those who remained there until 1996 saw the place as their home. I grew up here and I cannot remember going to the Magdalens to have my laundry done.

There a re a lot of interesting accounts of the Magdalens such as 'Cathy's Story', a brilliant book, the only problem is that the author was never a Maggie and made it all up. 

I work in the field of education and would never claim that Ireland is the most literate country in Europe, unless you are going back a thousand years. Were it not for the Christian Brothers millions of poverty stricken Irish would never have received an education.

from today's Irish Times

Sir, – As someone who gave refuge in our home to “unmarried mothers” in the 1970s and 1980s, I agree with Brendan Hoban and Tony Flannery on the “demonisation of all religious” (Home News, August 6th).

Many of those who condemn them have neither memory nor experience of the times or of the harsh Victorian attitudes of Irish society towards those who strayed from the straight and narrow.

Caring leadership was given by those in religious life. Sisters in the social services, especially the Good Shepherds, Assumption and Little Company of Mary, guided families such as ours to offer refuge to women and girls sheltering from the social disapproval of their friends, employers, schools and, frequently, their families. In the context of the times their good work should be recognised. – Yours, etc,


Newport, Co Tipperary.


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