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Survivors of the Magdalene Asylums/Laundries demand National Inquiry

There has been a lot of news out of Ireland as of late pertaining to adoptions that I haven’t gotten to blogging (Against Child Trafficking’s Ireland page has lots of coverage), but today I’m just going to make a short post about this latest call for an Inquiry into the Magdalene Laundries/Asylums.

These institutions around the world, including the United States that enslaved women and sold their children into adoptions first began in Dublin in 1767, with the last of them in the Republic of Ireland finally closing its doors in 1996.

I’ve barely touched on the subject in my blogging in that it’s a dauntingly huge, and in many ways simply beyond words, while simultaneously being book worthy. (Fortunately, others have already taken on  that task.)

(Though Violet Feng’s short piece, The Magdalene Laundry: A Life of Servitude Behind Convent Walls provides sort of a Cliff Notes version. It was written many years ago, long before most of the unmarked graves of women “inmates” and infants were found.)

There are horrors sometimes simply to big to blog.

Thus my brief post that serves as an introduction of sorts,

Remembering the victims of the “Magdalene Laundries”

That said, there are renewed efforts calling for forcing open the records and demands reparations be paid to the survivors.

See today’s article,

Call for inquiry into Magdalene laundries

THE IRISH Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has called on the Government to set up a statutory inquiry into treatment of women and girls in Magdalene laundries. It also said financial redress should be available to survivors.

While these efforts are internal to Ireland, the Madalene Asylums also operated in the United States, Canada, and around the world.

But to date, you’d certainly never see language such as this applied to women who suffered these brutalities here in the States:

Speaking during the adjournment debate in the Dáil last night, Mr Kitt said he strongly supported the commission’s stance. Survivors “should receive an apology from the State” and a distinct redress scheme for them “should be established”, he said. “The survivors of the Bethany Home should be treated in the same way.” He asked the Conference of the Religious in Ireland (Cori) and the four religious congregations that operated the laundries to meet the Justice For Magdalenes group “to deal with the issues of records, compensation and other related matters”.

Last June, the Justice for Magdalenes group asked the commission to inquire into treatment of women and girls in Magdalene laundries. The commission agreed to do so, and to examine the human rights issues arising.

The principal findings by the commission’s inquiry, on which it based its recommendations yesterday, were that “for those girls and women who entered Magdalene laundries following a court process, there was clear State involvement in their entry to the laundries”.

It found questions arose “as to whether the State’s obligations to guard against arbitrary detention were met in the absence of information on whether and how girls and women under court processes resided in and left the laundries”. It found the State may have breached the 1930 Forced Labour Convention and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Of the Magdalene laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin, it said: “The burial, exhumation and cremation of known and unknown women from a Magdalene laundry in 1993 at High Park raises serious questions for the State in the absence of detailed legislation governing the area.”

Olive Braiden, of the commission, said: “We are dealing with a small and vulnerable group of women who the Government admitted as far back as 2001 were victims of abuse.” Dr Manning said: “The State cannot abdicate from its responsibilities in relation to the treatment of women and girls in the Magdalene laundries.”

Here in America, in the adoption and female confinement industry more generally, the institutions and individual perpetrators hope to escape justice by simply waiting long enough for their victims to die. Or hoping to die personally, long before the victims are able to force justice be done (if ever).

With the deaths of their victims any hope of justice, and often memory of the crimes themselves dies along with them.

Prof James Smith of the Justice for Magdalenes group said “the Government must move beyond its ‘deny ’til they die’ policy.”

Maeve O’Rourke, co-author of the group’s submission to the commission, said the State “must convince the church to acknowledge its part in this scandal, and to open up its records”. It should also call on the church “to pay its share of compensation to survivors”.

There are many resources online where one can learn more, but I strongly urge readers to click across to  Justice for Magdalenes.

Blogs such as this have been staying up to date on the efforts to gain an Inquiry and contain a fair amount of video testimony from survivors.

Needless to say, I add my voice to so many others demanding a full Inquiry, the records be opened, and restitution be paid to survivors and the families of those who endured this church and state constructed living hell, globally.

Any inquiry that results in Ireland would be nothing more than a long overdue start.

But in the end, nothing can truly even begin to address the lives lost, nor the conditions these women were imprisoned within, nor the loss of so many children, often passed via adoption into families deemed suitably “faithful” over the past 229 years.

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