All about dignity

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AS YOUNG women, the Magdalens were stripped of their freedom, their dignity and even their names. They lost parents, children, siblings.

Many of them were barely past childhood and some were still children but they were forced to endure a punishing regime of hard physical labour, verbal and physical punishments that could only be described as abuse and many had no idea when, or if, this living hell would open and release them.

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The vast majority were paid nothing for their work. And the McAleese report has revealed that the state had a hand in condemning about one-quarter of these women to this fate.

While they were incarcerated in the laundries, they learned plenty about how to remove filth from dirty linen and how to iron and mend. But they got no other education or training and girls as young as twelve left their schoolbooks behind them forever when the doors of the laundry closed behind them.

Some spent all their lives in these grim places but those who got out no doubt found there was no reward waiting for women who had no skills that would earn them anything other than minimum pay, if that.

Having endured all that, the majority of the survivors are now elderly and are again reliant on the state to pay them a pension, often non-contributory and barely enough to exist. Certainly, not an amount that will give them choices about how to spend their golden years.

In contrast, the civil servants who had a hand in condemning them to the laundries and a subsequent lifetime of nightmare memories retired on gilt-edged pensions that are more than enough to pay for golf club memberships and sun-drenched holidays.

Certainly, the Magdalene women need an apology. But before even more of them end their days without some comforts, they need to be promptly and properly compensated.