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Ireland 'Our identities were taken, we were locked up. Our hair was cut short, our names were taken' - survivors of the Magdalene Laundry

10:36  05 june  2018
10:36  05 june  2018 Source:   independent.ie

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Thousands of women were sent to the ' Magdalene laundries ' over a 70-year period. 10,000 young Irish girls were sent to the laundries between 1922 and 1996. Taoiseach Enda Kenny expresses sympathy for survivors and their families.

34 Woman represented by Magdalene Survivors Together 35 Woman introduced to the Committee by Justice for Magdalenes 36 Woman represented Chapter 19. - Another woman, when asked if her hair was cut on entry to a different Magdalen Laundry , said “no, my hair was short , I had bobbed hair ”.

Magdalene Laundries survivors © Independent.ie Magdalene Laundries survivors One Magdalene Laundry survivor said Ireland "must never forget us", as she returned to her country of birth for a commemorative event uniting more than 200 women.

Breda Duffy (72) has spent most of her adult life in London, where she married and had a family, after she escaped a Magdalene institution in Limerick aged 21, in a laundry van.

Only four years ago, she was reunited with a woman she counts as her "sister", Martha Osmonde (80).

Both women had been locked away together in the Limerick laundry after years in a Waterford industrial school together. And each woman supported the other yesterday as they arrived into Dublin Airport ahead of the Dublin Honours Magdalenes event.

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So straight away your identity is taken because my name is changed, my hair is cut and I'm not wearing my own clothes," she says. Eighty-three-year-old Mary Merritt is a survivor of both a Mother and Baby Home and a Magdalene laundry .

Today, survivors of the laundries are still waiting for compensation from the state three years after they were promised, among other things, special medical cards and a dedicated unit to help them access advice. In 2011, groups advocating on behalf of survivors of the Magdalene laundries

"One way I'd look at this, is Ireland is recognising what happened to us," Breda told the Irish Independent. "What happened in the Magdalene Laundries should go down in history, it should never be forgotten, it should never have happened, it can never happen again.

Survivors of the former Magdalene Laundries Breda Duffy and Martha Osmonde, both from UK, after they arrived at Dublin Airport. Photo: Gerry Mooney © Provided by Irish Independent Survivors of the former Magdalene Laundries Breda Duffy and Martha Osmonde, both from UK, after they arrived at Dublin Airport. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"The young people should know what harm was done to women in Ireland. Our identities were taken, we were locked up. Our hair was cut short, our names were taken."

Today and tomorrow, the women will be remembered with a two-day gathering, organised by voluntary group Dublin Honours Magdalenes.

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So straight away your identity is taken because my name is changed, my hair is cut and I'm not wearing my own clothes," she says. Eighty-three-year-old Mary Merritt is a survivor of both a Mother and Baby Home and a Magdalene laundry .

The Magdalene Laundries were set up after an independent Irish state was happy to delegate welfare duties to the religious orders. ‘Then we had just a plate of porridge before going back to the laundry again until half past eight.’ Survivors complain of the frequent injuries suffered by

Breda shared her story ahead of the event, explaining she'd been abandoned as an infant by her mother. She inevitably ended up in an industrial school, a ward of the State,

"I met up with Martha only four years ago after a London Irish event," Breda said. "We'd been in the same industrial school too. She was a big girl when I was little and she looked after me. We didn't have family, so we are like sisters - we are family."

At the age of 17, Martha, now a mother-of-three, said another teenage girl told nuns that she'd been talking to her boyfriend. This accusation led her to being thrown into the laundry in Limerick.

"We'd rise at 6am to work and I had to operate this huge industrial washing machine," she said. "We'd work right through until 5 or 6pm.

"My sister and I never had a father and we suffered for my mother's sin," she added, weeping.

Mary Wooton, nee Walsh (69), flew from Southampton, yesterday. Mary was sent to a laundry in Wexford, she said, after her mother "wasn't capable of looking after me."

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In our heads all we could think of is we are going to die here. When that door was locked my life ended. I never moved on from there. Video: Taoiseach stops short of apologising for Magdalene Laundries , angering survivors .

His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud hubbub which broke out from the stall which we had just left. I knew that he would be true to me, for I knew one or two things about him; so I made up my mind to go right on to Kilburn, where he lived, and take him into my confidence.

"I remember going into a courthouse as a child and when I left, I didn't return home with my aunt," said Mary, starting to cry. "What I'm very upset about, really, really angry, about is when I should have been in secondary school, getting an education, I was working in the laundry, everyday."

Survivors from the UK, USA, Australia, and Ireland, will meet President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin today for a special reception, before going to Dublin's Mansion House for a gala dinner and entertainment, including a performance from Christy Moore, Philomena Begley and Dana. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Lord Mayor of Dublin, Michéal MacDonnchadh, will also attend.

Dragons' Den star and ambassador for Dublin Honours Magdalenes Norah Casey said: "It's been a challenge to get them all to Ireland.

"Some didn't have passports, no email or computers, some had no landlines, or mobile phones."

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