To our Magdalene sisters

Magdalene laundry residents are paraded down Gloucester Street in Dublin in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of
Magdalene laundry residents are paraded down Gloucester Street in Dublin in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of

I’m sorry, sisters.

For the hand you were dealt.

For the cruelty of the times.

For the freedom that was stolen from you and the love and compassion you so deserved but never received.

For the terror and the loneliness you must have felt, not knowing why you were in this place and how long you’d be left there.

For the injustice. For the misogyny.

For the stolen childhoods, womanhoods, motherhoods.

For the betrayal by your sisters, The Sisters. (The Sisters – how could you? Did you not see? Did you not know? Where was your compassionate God in those days?). The Sisters who judged you and kept you in subservience to wash the dirty linen because society said you had already washed your own dirty linen for the world to see. According to them. And their hypocritical, absurd ways.

For the stigma you never deserved but still haunts.

For the passing of years with no voice, no acknowledgement, no support.

For receiving no apology yesterday when the writing was on the wall and the words should have tumbled out, begging for your forgiveness.

I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry this happened in our country but I am unsurprised. I’m sorry that I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like and how life is for you now when my own life is a million miles away. I was 17 when the last laundry closed in 1996. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even know they were still open then.

I’m sorry that the Ireland in which you finally got your vindication is an Ireland so obsessed with money and budgets and bottom lines and belt-tightening and cost-cutting and percentages and accounting, that the powers that be have lost perspective and empathy and cannot see the healing that “I’m sorry” can bring, at no cost to them. Although their actions yesterday will cost them in the end…

I’m sorry we were who we were then. I’m sorry we are who we are now.

I hope you find peace somewhere in the middle of all this.


7 thoughts on “To our Magdalene sisters”

  1. This hits home for me as my birth mother would have stayed in St Patricks Institution when pregnant with me in the 1970s. Can’t imagine what she must have gone through or felt. Am so so upset at the way the government has dealt with this and saddened that no apology was given. Ireland has a lot to be ashamed about

  2. I’ve just watched the very emotional scenes in Leinster House this evening. It really moved me to see the profound effect the apology had on the laundries survivors. This was good – long overdue – but it was good. The unprecedented standing ovation in the Chamber was touching. I hope there’s catharsis in tonight’s events for them.

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