29 Jan 2011

Germany will compensate thousands subjected to slavery and brutality in Catholic, Protestant and state-run youth homes after WW2

The Independent - UK December 14, 2010

Germany admits enslaving and abusing a generation of children

Government agrees up to €120m in compensation for three decades of post-war 'Nazi-era' brutality in foster homes

By Tony Paterson in Berlin

Germany has owned up to one of the most disturbing examples of mass child and youth abuse in its post-war history, some 60 years after the first teenagers started being locked away and mistreated by supposedly "caring" foster homes.

The country agreed yesterday to provide a €120m (£101m) compensation fund for the estimated 30,000 victims who were among the 800,000 children in German foster homes in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.

Institutions that for decades meted out inhuman treatment – including ritual beatings, periods of solitary confinement, forced labour and sexual assaults – were not youth remand centres or borstals as might be expected, but homes run by nuns and priests in former West Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as state-run homes.

Peter Wensierski - Youths digging turf at Diakonie Freistatt, one of the church institutions, near Hannover, in the 1960s

Antje Vollmer, a Green Party politician and former German parliamentary president, announced the establishment of the fund yesterday after two years of round-table discussions with victims, politicians and church leaders in an attempt to provide some form of retrospective justice for those who were abused.

Ms Vollmer said that by setting up the fund, Germany was finally "recognising the suffering of the victims", which had been perpetrated by a nation which – at the time – had an "immature justice system" and was still trying to shake off attitudes inherited from a totalitarian Nazi regime.

Der Spiegel magazine, which broke the story of widespread abuse in German foster homes in 2003, concluded that the mistreatment was systematic: "Between 1945 and 1970, the worst educational practices of the Nazi era continued virtually unabated in these barrack like foster homes."

Those Nazi-era practices included beatings for petty offences like using too much soap or "nose picking" and incarceration in solitary confinement cells for "daring to hum" pop songs.

One victim, who refused to be named, recalled in a radio interview this week that a standard foster home punishment for talking at night was being made to stand naked in an unheated corridor until a freshly lit new candle had burned itself out. "It meant standing naked all night," he said.

Forced unpaid labour included ditch digging, turf cutting and being sub-contracted out to construction firms to hump bricks. For adolescent girls, the favourite form of unpaid labour was carried out in laundries, where they had to work for hours washing by hand and ironing.

Eleonore Fleth, now in her sixties, was sent to a church-run foster home as a teenager. Interviewed yesterday, she said she had been so traumatised by the experience that she had mentally blanked out much of her home experience. "I only know from my home records that I was contracted out and used as a part-time labourer for a building firm," she said.

"I still suffer bad attacks of claustrophobia from being locked up in solitary confinement. The worst thing was being so powerless."

In thousands of cases, teenagers were dispatched for long periods of incarceration in foster homes for committing offences that nowadays would be passed off simply as part of growing up. One woman victim, now in her mid-sixties, was shut away in a Catholic -run home at the age of 15.

Her crime was that she spent the night with her boyfriend and had failed to return home. Her mother convinced the local youth authorities and the courts that she was a danger to herself and society.

Shame and fear of further discrimination meant that the former inmates of Germany's foster homes of the Fifties and Sixties remained silent about the abuse they suffered for decades. When they approached their former homes, they were stonewalled and told to go away.

However, a handful were encouraged to come forward and tell their stories in 2002 after the release of British director Peter Mullan's acclaimed film The Magdelene Sisters, which exposed the plight of supposedly "fallen" girls held in Catholic-run foster homes in Ireland in the 1960s.

Peter Wensiersky, a journalist writing for Der Spiegel, started publishing their stories of abuse in 2003. "I didn't realise it at the time, but it was just the tip of an iceberg," he said.

Thousands more came forward and forced the German government to take notice. Yesterday's compensation deal follows profuse apologies from Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches for their role in the running of foster homes in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Catholic church, said he bitterly regretted the injustice. "With all my heart I beg those affected for forgiveness for these sad events," he said.

However, the sense of injustice felt by foster home victims remained intense more than half a century later. Yesterday one of the main foster home victims' groups, the Association of Former Home Children, condemned the fund as being utterly inadequate. The association's chairman, Monika Tschapek-Günter, herself a victim, described its provisions under which victims would obtain around €2,500 each, as a "humiliation". She said her group would challenge the fund's provisions in the courts.

Gisela Nurthen: 'We were juvenile slave labourers'

Gisela remembers being locked up in solitary confinement at the age of 15 for having the audacity to hum an Elvis Presley song. For two years she worked for 10 hours a day folding sheets and ironing. There was no pay.

"We were juvenile slave labourers," Mrs Nurthen, now in her mid-60s, said. "We were given numbers and only allowed to move about in pairs, to church, to the lavatory and to meals," she said.

Mrs Nurthen spent two years in a Catholic Church-run foster home in Dortmund during the 1960s. "The people who ran these homes, the religious orders, Germany's juvenile justice authorities and the churches – they all owe us an explanation," she said.

She was sent to the home run by the Charitable Sisters of the order of St Vincent de Paul. Her crime was that she had failed to return home after a night out dancing with her boyfriend.

She was picked up by the police the following morning trying to hitch hike back to her single parent mother. Her mother informed the local authorities and 24 hours later a juvenile court dispatched her to the home after ruling that she was "in danger of committing further acts of depravity".

She remembers being taken into a room by a nun and ordered to put on one of the institution's grey uniform dresses. The slightest transgressions brought beatings and other punishments from the nuns. "We were watched over every minute of the day. When we undressed for the night the nuns stared at our private parts and checked that they were 'washed clean'," she said.

Seven years ago, Mrs Nurthen and some 30 other former home inmates tried to obtain church documents relating to their time spent in the institutions, in order to expose the scandal and obtain some form of financial compensation.

She was told by the civil authorities that all documents relating to her case had been lost or destroyed. She contacted the Paderborn headquarters of the Charitable Sisters order that ran the home where she was held. She was told: "We have no documents. Our old sisters who were in the homes want to be left in peace. We don't want to get them involved in discussions of this nature."

Publication of Gisela Nurthen's story led the German parliament to set up a review which yesterday agreed to give compensation for foster-home victims.

Abuses of trust

Magdalene laundries, Ireland

Rights groups continue to fight for women who stayed at workhouses for "fallen women" dubbed "Magdalene laundries" that operated for more than 100 years until 1996. Nuns who ran them were accused of systematic abuse.

Boston diocese sex abuse scandal

The conviction of Catholic priests in Boston for child abuse triggered a crisis in the Catholic Church in the US and led to a series of payouts to their victims.

North Wales care homes

Some 200 youngsters were abused in children's homes in the 1970s and 1980s in North Wales. The Waterhouse Report, ordered in 1996 by William Hague to look into the scandal, spoke of systematic abuse and a culture of secrecy and violence at homes in Clwyd and Gwynedd. The abuse came to light when the head of one of the homes came forward with her concerns.

This article was found at:



A brief history of Canadian residential schools designed to indoctrinate and assimilate aboriginal children

UK Secular Society presenting films on Catholic crimes against children as part of protest against the Pope's visit

Irish "Hannibal Lecter of pedophile Catholic priests" to receive annuity from U.S. diocese, survivors react with disgust

Clergy abuse survivors from Belfast to Boston speak out, while U.S. Bishops quietly reinstate credibly accused priests

Dublin Archbishop says Catholic hierarchy still in denial, theology professor says systemic child abuse result of Catholic dogma


  1. .
    This email ( sent on 28.01.2012 sent via YAHOO ) could not be delivered to

    "Perry Bulwer"

    Hi there Perry – Australia contacting Canada.

    With reference to you article / blog entry / reproduction of story »Germany will compensate thousands subjected to slavery and brutality in Catholic, Protestant and state-run youth homes after WW2« @ http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2011/01/germany-will-compensate-thousands.html

    A year on ( it's been over a year now ).

    Germany will do no such thing !!! ---The opposite is in fact the truth !!!

    Just saw your blog for the first time today whilst googling for reports on this topicin English. – Although my daily language is English ( has been approximately for the last 45 years ) I usually write in German all day long on this topic ( since 2003 ) ( and for that my brain has to be totally in German mode ).

    It seem you always have the current date immediately above every one of your blog entries, which, in my humble opinion, could make some people believe that a story is of current date.

    At a closer look at this story, however, I quickly discovered that the actual date on this particular reportagé on this topic is the 4 December 2010.

    I recently wrote a letter to a sister of mine who is also living in Australia whose German is poorly – so I had to write in English – and therein I explained the true situation as it relates to "compensation" for "brutality" and "abuse" and "slave labour" / "forced labour" "children and youth" "of all ages" "in the hundreds of thousands" "were subjected to" "for decades" "whilst in institutional care" "in predominantly church-run, but also in state-run" "institutions numbering in the thousands" "after World War 2" --- much, much more so in West-Germany ( Federal Republic of Germany = FRG = Bundesrepublik Deutschland = BRD ) than in East-Germany ( German Democratic Republik = GDR = Deutsche Demokratische Republik = DDR).

    I am supplying you now – and you may pass on to whoever you wish ! – here a link to a copy of that letter [ right at the bottom of this email ] ( I’ve already postet it online on three German language sites –discussion forums in German – a little while ago [ about a week ago ] ), and you may re-publish it as you see fit – and so may anybody else – and also publish all or portions of this current email addressed to you as you see fit --- so that the world may get to know the true story about today’s Germany and how it lives up to its responsibilities to its many victims. I wouldn’t want to live there that’s for sure. I am quite happy were I am in Australia.

    With kind regards from the land Down Under

    Martin MITCHELL
    ( former inmate and survivor of postwar German child welfare hell holes )
    http://www.care-leavers-survivors.org= http://www.heimkinder-ueberlebende.org
    Blog: http://heimkinderopfer.blogspot.com
    Blog: http://heimkinderopfer2.blogspot.com
    German institutional child abuse victims’ website: http://veh-ev.info/

    Here now the Link to the relevant letter: http://www.fi-ehk.de/forum/board/index.php?page=Thread&postID=7652#post7652

    [ Added to this text since: "Martin MITCHELL" ]

  2. Irish PM: Magdalene laundries product of harsh Ireland

    By Shane Harrison BBC NI Dublin correspondent February 5, 2013

    Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has apologised for the stigma and conditions suffered by women who were inmates of the Magdalene laundries.

    Mr Kenny said the laundries had operated in a "harsh and uncompromising Ireland," but he stopped short of a formal apology from the government.

    About 10,000 women passed through the laundries in the Irish Republic between 1922 and 1996, a report has revealed.

    The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses that operated in Ireland.

    Mr Kenny expressed his sympathies with survivors and the families of those who died.

    He added that the report found no evidence of sexual abuse in the laundries and that 10% of inmates were sent by their families and 19% entered of their own volition.

    The inquiry chaired by Senator Martin McAleese found 2,124 of those detained in the institutions were sent by the authorities.

    There will be a debate in the Irish parliament in two weeks time giving members time to read the 1,000-page document.

    State involvement
    Girls considered "troubled" or what were then called "fallen women" were sent there and did unpaid manual work.

    In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture called on the Irish government to set up an inquiry into the treatment of thousands of women and girls.

    In response, the Irish government set up an inter-departmental committee, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, to establish the facts of the Irish state's involvement with the Magdalene laundries.

    Survivors and representative groups, and the religious congregations, co-operated with the departmental committee.

    Senator McAleese's inquiry found that half of the girls and women put to work in the laundries were under the age of 23 and 40%, more than 4,000, spent more than a year incarcerated.

    Fifteen percent spent more than five years in the laundries while the average stay was calculated at seven months.

    The youngest death on record was 15, and the oldest 95, the report found.

    Some of the women were sent to laundries more than once, as records show a total of 14,607 admissions, and a total of 8,025 known reasons for being sent to a laundry.

    Statistics in the report are based on records of eight of the 10 laundries. The other two, both operated by the Sisters of Mercy in Dun Laoghaire and Galway, were missing substantial records.

    Women were forced into Magdalene laundries for a crime as minor as not paying for a train ticket, the report found.

    The majority of those incarcerated were there for minor offences such as theft and vagrancy.

    A small number of the women were there for prostitution.

    The report also confirmed that a police officer could arrest a girl or a woman without warrant if she was being recalled to the laundry or if she had run away.

    Amnesty International has called for former residents of Magdalene laundry-type institutions in Northern Ireland to come forward to report their experiences to the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry.

    Amnesty spokesman Patrick Corrigan said: "Those who suffered abuse as children are now eligible to come forward to the inquiry, recently established by the Northern Ireland Executive, and we would encourage them to consider doing so."

    Some former inmates rejected Enda Kenny's apology and demanded a fuller and more frank admission from government and the religious orders involved.


  3. The Magdalene Laundries: Irish Report Exposes a National Shame

    By Sorcha Pollak TIME February 07, 2013

    They were the forgotten women of Ireland, kept under lock and key, forced to clean and sew, and to wash away the sins of their previous life while never being paid a penny. Some stayed months, others years. Some never left. They were the inmates of Ireland’s notorious 20th century workhouses, the Magdalene Laundries. And this week, with the publication of a government report into the dark history of the laundries, the women came that much closer to obtaining justice.

    The laundries — a beneficent-sounding word that helped hide the mistreatment that took place inside their walls — were operated by four orders of Catholic nuns in Ireland from 1922 to 1996. Over 10,000 young women, considered a burden by family, school and the state, spent an average of six months to a year locked up in these workhouses doing unpaid, manual work. Some were kept there against their will for years. Their numbers were made up by unmarried mothers and their daughters, women and girls who had been sexually abused, women with mental or physical disabilities who were unable to live independently, and young girls who had grown up under the care of the church and the state. The laundries were “a mechanism that society, religious orders and the state came up with to try and get rid of people deemed not to be conforming to the so-called mythical, cultural purity that was supposed to be part of Irish identity,” Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter told Ireland’s national broadcasting service, RTE, this week. Known as the fallen women, the workers were only entitled to leave if signed out by a family member or if a nun found a position of work for them, and if they tried to escape the confines of the home they were brought back by the Irish police.

    The report released this week by an Irish government committee focused on Irish state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries and revealed previously unknown details about the women, many of whom spent years of their lives locked in these workhouses. The report found that a total of 2,124 women (26.5%) of the 10,012 admitted from 1922 to 1996 were referred by the state. Successive Irish governments have denied that the state played a role in sending women to the workhouses. The report also found that the youngest girl to have been admitted was 9 years old while the oldest woman was 89. Nearly 900 women died while working in the laundries, the youngest of whom was 15 years old. The findings state that “the psychological impact on these girls was undoubtedly traumatic and lasting.”

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  4. For years, advocacy support groups representing the women who lived in the laundries have called for the Irish government to offer a full apology on behalf of the state. Following the release of the report on Feb. 5, Prime Minister Enda Kenny repeatedly apologized for any “stigma” that was attached to these “fallen women” and also apologized for the length of time it had taken for the government to carry out the inquiry, but he did not acknowledge that the state shared responsibility for what happened to the women in the laundries. He has called for a parliamentary debate later in February at which MPs are due to discuss how the government should respond in full to the findings of the report.

    Professor James Smith of Boston College, who has written two books on the history of the Magdalene Laundries, voiced his dissatisfaction with the government’s response. “I wrote in the Irish Times today that this government would be judged on its response to the report,” Smith said in an e-mail to TIME, “but Mr. Kenny has failed that test.” Meanwhile, a key advocacy group, Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), has called once again not only for an apology but also for the Irish government to establish a “transparent and nonadversarial compensation process that includes the provision of pensions, lost wages, health and housing services.”

    Mari Steed, co-founder and committee director for JFM, was adopted from a laundry when she was a baby and says it was the discovery of her birth mother’s past that motivated her to find out the truth behind the laundries.

    Steed discovered that her maternal grandmother had given birth to four children out of wedlock, something that was greatly frowned upon by many in mid-20th century Ireland. Steed’s grandmother’s family, ashamed of their daughter, sent her to Manchester to start a new life on her own — away from her children. Soon after she arrived in England she got married and went on to have seven children, but she never told her husband about her other four children in Ireland. One of these was a girl named Josephine — Steed’s birth mother.

    When Josephine was separated from her mother, she was sent by family members to a tough residential industrial school, run by nuns, in the city of Waterford. When she was 14, the nuns transferred Josephine to a Magdalene Laundry in Cork, in the south of the country. She spent the next decade behind its walls. (Josephine is still alive but requested that her daughter, Steed, only provide her first name to TIME).

    Educated by nuns, Josephine had minimal knowledge of the outside world and no experience of men. “They were easy prey because they were so naive and vulnerable,” explains Steed. The nuns found Josephine a job working in a hospital in Dublin and allowed her to leave the laundry. She met a man named Arthur at a dance when she was 27 and became pregnant by him — but he had a partner and two children, says Steed, who learned the history from her mother. Josephine told him she was pregnant and he went to visit his newborn baby in Cork, but he felt his duty was to his wife and children in England. A relationship with Josephine and her child was impossible in 1950s Ireland, although, as Steed recalls, it was “evident he brooded over it his whole life.”

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  5. Steed spent the first 18 months of her life with Josephine in a mother-and-baby home in Cork but was adopted in 1961 by an American couple who lived in Philadelphia. Josephine was heartbroken to see her baby girl taken away from her, but she had little choice — she was a young, single Irish mother with no financial or family support. It was then she made the decision to never to have children again for fear that they, too, would be taken away.

    Josephine, like many other Magdalene women, fled to England once the nuns released her from the laundry. She married twice but kept her life in the laundries a secret from her partners. “It was difficult for a lot of the survivors, especially those who went to the U.K. and were really trying to blend in,” Steed says. “It really wasn’t something you wanted people to know because they’d make fun of you and you’d get bullied for it.”

    After they were reunited, Steed took her mother to Ireland in 2002. It was Josephine’s first trip to her homeland in 40 years, but she no longer felt any connection to the country where she had suffered so much. “The more I thought about it,” recalls Steed, “what did Ireland have for her?”

    The release of Tuesday’s report means that women like Josephine may finally have the courage to step forward and identify themselves. But first they need recognition of state involvement in the laundries from the Irish government, says Steed. “I believe the absence of an apology and an invitation to talk about what happened has kept people silent,” says Maeve O’Rourke, a legal representative for JFM. O’Rourke, who interviewed women who had been kept in the laundries against their will for a submission to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, believes that an official acknowledgment from the state could bring an end to the stigma and shame associated with having lived in a laundry. These women “vividly described the ongoing effects to me, in terms of mental health issues, poverty and isolation,” she says.

    The testimonials she gathered paint a dark picture of the deep scars the laundries left on the women. In the U.N. submission, one woman wrote anonymously: “I am still treated for depression, for years and years. And I had tried to commit suicide many times in the past. I never found happiness. I felt like broken pieces, and I never felt in one piece.” Others are still nervous about returning to Ireland — some even harbor the fear that they could be sent back to the laundries. “I ask them how they feel now about Ireland, and they feel betrayed,” explains O’Rourke. “They feel conflicted because it’s their country, it’s their identity, but it has failed them so badly.”


  6. We were girls in there, not women.. & the girls in there cried every day

    By LARISSA NOLAN The Irish Sun February 7, 2013

    SINGER Sinead O’Connor has revealed how her time in a notorious Magdalene laundry affected her for life.

    Brave Sinead, 46, was sent to the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity laundry in Dublin when she was just 14 years old after she was labelled a “problem child”.

    She told the Irish Sun: “We were girls in there, not women, just children really. And the girls in there cried every day.

    “It was a prison. We didn’t see our families, we were locked in, cut off from life, deprived of a normal childhood.

    “We were told we were there because we were bad people. Some of the girls had been raped at home and not believed.

    “One girl was in because she had a bad hip and her family didn’t know what to do with her.

    “It was a great grief to us.”

    And she explained that her 18 months in High Park, Drumcondra, Dublin, left her so angry at the injustice that it was part of the reason she caused worldwide controversy by tearing up a picture of the Pope on live television.

    She said: “It wasn’t the only reason, but it was one of them.”

    Last night, she lashed out at the Church’s “flaccid” apology and said she was “disgusted” by it.

    Mother-of-four Sinead said: “They said something like, ‘We’re sorry for the hurt’.

    “The word hurt doesn’t cover it. I am disgusted that the State won’t apologise. I’m disgusted at the tone of the Church’s flaccid apology. The Church is getting away with it again.”

    Troubled Sinead — who has previously told how she suffered abuse as a child — began stealing as a teenager and was sent to the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Institute.

    She said her worried dad thought he was doing the right thing by sending her to be “rehabilitated” at the facility.

    She claims her father told her he even paid for the privilege of doing so.

    She said: “He thought he was doing the right thing. He was convinced into it.

    “He paid them to take me. I never told him the truth of how bad it was.

    “There was no rehabilitation there and no therapy. Nothing but people telling us we were terrible people. I stopped the stealing all right. I didn’t want to be sent back there. But at what cost?”

    Sinead was finally let out when she agreed to go to boarding school.

    She spent third and fourth year of secondary school in High Park and went on to to do her two final years in Newtown School in Waterford.

    And talking of her time at High Park, Sinead said: “I wouldn’t class myself as being abused while I was there. I came in at the tail end of it.

    “But certainly some of the punishments were a little fucking odd.

    “As a punishment, I would be sent up to bed early to go to sleep with the dying old Magdalene ladies. There would be about six of them in the room and me and I was terrified.

    These women were old and dying and I was scared up there.

    “The laundries were gone then, but I did see them in a big room, about 200 square feet full of laundries. And I saw the older women, shuffling along. We were not allowed to talk to them.”


  7. The Magdalene laundries were used as reformatories where girls were sent without due process. But they were not brutal: anti-Catholics have lied about them

    The laundries were tough places, undoubtedly. But there was no sexual abuse and no physical punishment

    By WILLIAM ODDIE Catholic Herald UK February 25, 2013

    I usually maintain a general scepticism about the BBC’s reporting of stories involving the Catholic Church, but I have to admit that I missed out on this one, maybe because it has to do with Ireland, and because there have been so many true Irish stories one really didn’t want to contemplate. The saga of the Magdalene laundries has been one I just didn’t want to think about; here we go again, I thought: now, it’s Irish nuns. And last week, the BBC reported (as did everyone else) that another enemy of the Church, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has formally apologised on behalf of the state for its role in the story.

    Some 10,000 women and girls, reported the BBC, were made to do unpaid manual labour in laundries run by Catholic nuns in Ireland between 1922 and 1996. More than a quarter of those who spent time in the laundries had been sent there by the Irish state.

    Mr Kenny apologised to all the women affected.

    He said their experiences had cast a “long shadow” over Irish life and that it had been “humbling and inspiring” to meet them. “For 90 years Ireland subjected these women, and their experience, to a profound indifference,” he said. “By any standards it was a cruel and pitiless Ireland, distinctly lacking in mercy”.

    Cruel and pitiless: that was the story; and most cruel and pitiless of all were allegedly the Irish sisters who presided over the women’s incarceration. The popular perception of the story of the Magdalen laundries has been a growing certainty which in the end led, politically, to the Taioseach’s apology (itself an implied attack on the Church) and it has been formed over the past 20 years by a series of plays and movies about what went on in the laundries. None had greater impact than the 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, which won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. It is about four teenage girls committed to a laundry where they experience or witness routine physical and sexual abuse by nuns and a priest. It depicts the laundries as profitable, money-making rackets, and shows the women subjected to various indignities including head-shaving.

    But how true was all that? According to the Irish Times, a striking feature of the government report by Senator McAleese is the number of women recorded as speaking positively about the sisters, women who absolutely rejected allegations of physical abuse. Most agreed that there was what was termed “psychological abuse”: most “described verbal abuse and being the victim of unkind or hurtful taunting and belittling comments. Even those who said that some Sisters were kind to them reported verbal cruelty as occurring during their time in the Magdalene Laundries”. The real question about these places is whether they should have existed in the first place in the way that they did, and whether the women sent there understood why. Why was their freedom taken from them? Often they were never told, and for that, the State is directly responsible (usually the sisters didn’t know either). But these were not, as is widely believed, brutal institutions.

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  8. I quote directly from the government report by Senator Martin McAleese:

    “33. A large majority of the women who shared their stories with the Committee said that they had neither experienced nor seen other girls or women suffer physical abuse in the Magdalene Laundries.

    “34. In this regard, women who had in their earlier lives been in an industrial or reformatory school drew a clear distinction between their experiences there and in the Magdalene Laundries, stating clearly that the widespread brutality which they had witnessed and been subjected to in industrial and reformatory schools was not a feature of the Magdalene Laundries.

    “The following examples and quotations relate to the majority of women who shared their stories with the Committee and who indicated that they had never experienced or seen physical punishment in a Magdalene Laundry:

    “One woman summarised her treatment in a Magdalene Laundry by saying ‘I might have been given out to, but I was never beaten’.

    - Another woman said about the same Magdalene Laundry ‘I was never beaten and I never seen anyone beaten’.

    - Another woman said ‘It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns. As long as I was there, I was not touched myself by any nun and I never saw anyone touched and there was never a finger put on them … Now everything was not rosy in there because we were kept against our will … we worked very hard there … But in saying that we were treated good and well looked after’.”

    Fr Tim Finigan described an article by Brendan O’Neill in the Telegraph, the standfirst of which was “Catholic-bashers have embellished the truth about abuse in Catholic institutions. It’s time to put the record straight” (and which pointed me to much of the above) as being “The kind of article Catholics dare not write”. Well, Brendan O’Neill wasn’t writing as a Catholic (though he may well be one); I, however, unavoidably am. So if Fr Tim is correct, I expect I’ll get it in the neck for this one. I’m not saying that the use by the Irish state of the Magdalene laundries as reformatories to which people could be sent without explanation or due process was in any way defensible. And Irish nuns could undoubtedly be tough in those days (my wife has fond memories from her convent school in Swanage, now a holiday hotel, of being called “a bold girl” and having her hand thwacked with a 12-inch ruler). But, says one woman quoted above, there was in the Magdalene laundries no physical punishment that she saw, and though things were “not rosy”, “we were treated good and well looked after”.

    Needless to say, none of that was reported by the BBC.