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Fallen Island February 5, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.

Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries can be read here.

Not sure what to make of it. A feast of statistics and pie-charts sees these women reduced to numbers for the second time but horror & disbelief still lurk in the background. One interesting trend looks as if the laundries were predominately penal – however loosely you want define a crime –  for the first few decades but became something very different from around the 60s onward. Officially at least.

As women’s public visibility increased (ever incrementally), so widened the grounds for ending up inside a laundry. A solution to a number of perceived problems. At the least somewhere these issues could be swept away.

There appears to a huge amount of records missing. In many cases the committee was unable to access how many women passed through these places and in others we find far far too many holes in how they got there.

Despite the breakdown of geography, family background (parents) and others, the searches I have done so far have returned no result for the word class.

The Taoiseach’s response today left mouths open both in tone and content. None of this landed on his desk this morning and to deliver it in the usual adversarial manner of leaders questions is well…

I remember clearly publication of the Murphy Report and Brian Cowen’s mealy mouth. Where Cowen never showed any intention of moving beyond leader of his Party, Kenny regardless of execution has made an attempt to step into his office.  His failure to deviate from type today however left me shaking my head and now that interaction with the State is further soured exactly when it was required.

Much more to sift through though based on Kenny & Shatter we’re only left to speculate if a decision has been made to tough this one out. Further collusion between Church and State with both opting not to make more trouble for each other. Women, children and poor caught in middle, as always.



1. Blissett - February 5, 2013

I was thinking earlier on how far removed his performance was from the response to Cloyne.


WorldbyStorm - February 5, 2013


I caught a fair bit of it and it was very weird.


Tomboktu - February 5, 2013

Contrast who might be financially liable if fault is assigned and compensation came into the picture. With Cloyne (and the report on the Dublin Archdiocese, etc.), the main blame would lie with the RC Church. With the Magdalene launderies, the State is much more culpabale for putting or aiding the putting of women there in flagrant breach of fundamental human rights. (Yes, the families and the order of nuns are also hugely to blame.but women who left were returned by Gardaí.)


ivorthorne - February 6, 2013

Nail on the head.


Jim Monaghan - February 6, 2013

Demand the schools and hospitals as part compensation.


doctorfive - February 5, 2013

Evasive hair splitting and arse covering on a grand scale. As close to all the things he denounced in the Cloyne speech

€1,800,000,000 paid to AIB bondholders yesterday. More responsibility to the debt of zombie banks then the women and children sent to labour camps.


CL - February 6, 2013



2. Tomboktu - February 5, 2013

A reminder of something I posted in December that is related.



3. hardcore for nerds - February 5, 2013

I assume the absence of class from the statistics is because that is simply something that wasn’t recorded. Reading through the report it’s a very dry account of the statistics with minimal interpretation – plenty of charts, though – except what is there at the introduction (which does point to a more complex picture than some of the public image, not that I think that is any reason for holding off on an apology). An awful lot of the records are still missing, presumably destroyed, which adds to the feeling of unreality about it.

I skimmed past one analysis of locations, there seemed to be significantly more women coming from the south-west of the country – but it wasn’t adjusted for population so I don’t know what if anything that meant.

Another striking thing was the number of relatively short-term stays in the institution. Naturally a lot of the testimony and the horror comes from those who spent many years, often coerced, in the laundries but they also seemed to fill the role of short-stay respite centre (or stages en route to further institutionalisation, in mental hospitals). That’s a more subtle image than I think is usually given but perhaps no less troubling.

Finally the report seems pretty clear that, from analysing what accounts they could locate, the laundries were not run on a commercial basis and often at a loss (with the deficit made up from the religious organisations). It says what has been frequently attributed as ‘profit’ of the institutions was merely revenue, before expenses. So although the orders benefited from unpaid labour it wasn’t a financial benefit which makes it more awkward to claim back compensation on that basis (not that it shouldn’t be claimed anyway on natural justice). There’s one part about the discussion between a govt department and a commercial laundry questioning whether the Magdalenes meet the ‘fair wage’ clause in the tender – the civil service response is essentially that since the charitable institutions provide for the maintenance of the inmates, the question doesn’t arise. I think from our perspective that has to raise questions however about the validity of ‘charity’ in such a restrictive societal context.


Sentinel - February 6, 2013

When you say, they were not on a commercial basis and often at a loss and that ‘although the orders benefited from unpaid labour, it wasn’t a financial benefit’.
Who, actually, did materially and financially, benefit? Us. The State. The Customers.
The Customers got a grand price. And us, being the Irish ….. took it.
The State, I would reckon, definitely owes them compensation on every bit of their labour, and no ‘awkward’ about it.
btw Where was the FG ‘competitiveness’ of firms and prices, at that time? Obviously, just no need.


4. D_D - February 6, 2013

One extraordinary photograph says more than a thousand words:


Well done Rabble.


Martin Savage - February 6, 2013

McAleese is a catholic church hack, it’s a fit up, these fuckers should pay


5. Robert Nielsen - February 6, 2013

I watched the Taoiseachs response there and I’m shocked at what a mealy-mouthed response it is. Does he not realise what an issue it is? It’s almost as though he’s trying to down play it.


6. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - February 6, 2013

Questions to be asked about the whole report:



7. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - February 6, 2013
WorldbyStorm - February 6, 2013

Good to see people are being forensic about it.


8. Forbolg - February 7, 2013

There is a clear connection between this scandal and the fact that until the latter part of the 20th century Ireland had by far the largest proportion of involuntary patients held in mental institutions in Europe.
Inspectors reports show the living conditions were vastly worse than the laundries .
It seems likely much the same social forces were at work in each case and the numbers of victims were much greater and the numbers permanently damaged (institutionalised) was vast.
The mental hospitals ,the launderies and the industrial schools were simply different ways of addressing related “problems”
The differing responses to these issues today is driven by purely economic considerations.


9. Red Hand - February 7, 2013

I wonder if the mainstream media are going to pick up the questions that are being raised about this report? A bad secondary school essay is one description I have seen. CLASS is the biggest issue and so obvious.


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