Girl, 12, was hidden in a tunnel when inspectors called

Maureen Sullivan is the youngest known survivor admitted to one of the Magdalene Laundries.

Girl, 12, was hidden in a tunnel when inspectors called

She was 12 when taken from her school in Co Carlow and put in the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, Co Wexford, because her father died and mother remarried.

Ms Sullivan said she was told the place would further her education, but she never saw her schoolbooks again.

For 48 years she had been haunted by memories of a lost childhood and slave labour and is demanding a full apology from the Government and religious orders for stealing her education, name, identity, and life.

“I feel that they are still in denial, but other parts of this report clearly state that we were telling the truth,” she said.

By day she worked in the laundry, was fed bread and dripping, and then made Aran sweaters or rosary beads before going to bed at night in St Aidan’s Industrial School.

“I remember being hidden in a tunnel when the school inspectors came,” said the 60-year-old. “I can only assume that this was due to the fact that I should not have been working in the laundry.”

Even at the weekends, the youngster was forced to clean the floors of the local church when she should have been out playing, enjoying life and meeting other children.

“How come all this was taken from me?” she asks.

“The nuns have destroyed my life and they never allowed me to develop as a young girl.”

Several determined women fighting for justice for other survivors, and thousands more who have died, spoke out about the physical and physiological abuse they suffered behind locked doors, which they said were revamped for visiting dignitaries.

Mary Smyth said was forced to follow in the steps of her mother, who had also been one of the Magdalene women, when she became pregnant. She said when growing up in an industrial school she never realised there could be worse to some and went into shock when she first walked through the doors of a laundry, which were locked behind her.

The 60-year-old believes she was treated like a slave and had her dignity, identity, and life taken from her for fear she would follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Ms Smyth said her time in the Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well, Cork, was hell. She said she was afraid to have children as an adult in case she was locked up. “It was horrendous and inhumane. It was worse than any prison,” she said.

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