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Magdalene women slaved for a Church obsessed with sexuality

Sheila Griffin asks what I meant when I said (Letters, August 24) that Catholic institutions were responsible for the deaths of girls and women who died whilst incarcerated in Magdalene laundries. 

Given that these girls and women lived lives (in some cases, whole lives) of brutality, drudgery, and shame, stripped of all basic human rights — even their names — while working for free for the financial benefit of those Catholic institutions, I think my meaning could hardly be clearer.

Ms Griffin asks why families sent their daughters to Magdalene laundries and why, at the end of their wasted lives, those families did not claim their bodies. Ms Griffin urges that I answer her with “honesty and common sense” and without resorting to clichés. I’ll do my best with the first two, but the last may present me with a difficulty. Is it a cliché to say that girls and women were sent to the laundries for the sin of having had unsanctioned (and not always consensual) sex?

Is it a cliché to say that families behaved as they did because of the curtain-twitching Ireland in which they lived?

Is it a cliché to say that Ireland was corrupted from top to bottom by a sex-obsessed version of Catholicism which resulted in an Ireland where family bonds took second place to “respectability”, where girls and women identified only by their initials slaved their lives away and where 796 dead children lie unidentified in a mass grave in Tuam?

Donal O’Keeffe

Brian Boru Grove

Fermoy

Co Cork


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