‘You were always in the clutches of the nuns’

Irish Times

Kitty Holland

Mary Merritt (86) was six-and-a-half stone when, aged 31, she left High Park laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin, in 1961.

At protest in Dublin on Friday, where she was one of about 40 people calling for a memorial to survivors of the Magdalene laundries, Ms Meritt also said, during her 14 years in the laundry she was given neither pads when she was having her period, nor a toothbrush.

“When we were having our period we just had to get on with it,” she said. “When I came out of the laundry I had to have all my teeth out they were so rotten. And I was blind in one eye.”

The protest, outside the old Gloucester Street laundry on Sean McDermott Street, heard from several survivors, as well as Orla O’Connor, chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and local councillor Gary Gannon of the Social Democrats. The laundry at that site was the last to close, in 1996.

More than 10,000 women and girls spent time in Catholic Church-run Magdalene laundries from the early 20th century, until 1996. Many were sent for the “crime” of being unmarried and pregnant, and they worked without pay in the laundries which supplied services to State-run bodies, hospitals and hotels.

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