Can Money Erase Memories?

Women who spent time in the Republic of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries have called for a “fast, fair and just” settlement for their suffering.

0006f729-642-9438872Between 1922 and 1996 some 10,000 women and girls were made to work unpaid in laundries run by Roman Catholic nuns. Many Irish institutions, such as the army, government departments, hotels and even Guinness, had contracts with Magdalene laundries, paying the institutions but not the workers. In February of this year, the Irish government was found to be complicit in running the laundries, where these women and girls “worked”.

Originally termed Magdalene Asylums, the first in Ireland was opened in Dublin in 1765, for Protestant girls. Initially seen as a short term refuge for ‘fallen women’, they then evolved into long-term institutions where women were actually unable to leave of their own free-will and effectively became slave workers.

These so called ‘fallen-women’ were typically unmarried mothers; women with learning difficulties; girls who had been abused; and often included women guilty of petty crimes or simply girls from broken homes.

Mary Currington, who spent time in Magdalene laundries in Ireland, said the only way they escaped from the nuns was to come to the UK.

At a meeting between 17 Magdalene women, who now live in the UK, and the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, they described their cruel treatment to him. The Irish government has now agreed plans to pay out settlements to the victims of the Magdalene laundries. However, is money enough to compensate the years of suffering that these women have had to endure?

“Some women spent their whole lives in the laundries and died there, but most stayed only a few months, and many fled Ireland after their release… never to return.”

As women in the UK today, we have so many laws in place to protect us from such crimes and exploitation, yet this type of brutality continues to go on in other countries.

Money can buy a lot of things but can it compensate for the time, hurt and suffering experienced?

Written by Khadijah-Peace Watkis Lewis

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