Younger Magdalene survivor to seek compensation for loss of right to education

Maureen Sullivan was put in a laundry at 12

Maureen Sullivan, at a press conference by Magdalene Survivors Together in June this year.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Maureen Sullivan, at a press conference by Magdalene Survivors Together in June this year.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 12:08

Patsy McGarry

A woman who was one of the youngest in Ireland to have been put in a Magdalene laundry is to refuse any offer of compensation by the State unless her loss of an education is taken into account.

Maureen Sullivan (61) was just 12 when she was placed in the Magdalene Laundry at New Ross Co Wexford in 1964. Over the following four years she was transferred to another such laundry in Athy, Co Kildare and then to a school for blind people in Dublin.
As her employer of 15 years at Irish Skincare in Carlow Arnie Stevenson told The Irish Times :“Maureen was a child slave trafficked between institutions.”

Yesterday she said that unless the fact that she was deprived of her constitutional right to an education was taken into account in any compensation offer made to her, she would refuse it and pursue that through other routes.

Mr Stevenson, who is assisting Ms Sullivan in getting what he believes is her due, said they were seeking an apology from the State “for her lack of education as well as compensation for that and for trauma suffered as a consequence”.

Maureen Sullivan was from a poor family in Carlow where there was abuse in the home. She confided this to a nun who “sent for my mother and told her about this school in New Ross where I’d get a good education”.

She was taken to New Ross where there was “no schooling, just the laundry every day, from 6am to about 9pm, with cleaning duties in the evening and at weekends”. The women there were adults, many elderly.

She was so young she was hidden in a tunnel “under the church” when inspectors arrived. Once, when she was 14, she was forgotten about in the tunnel. She became hysterical. “It took days to get over it.”

She was moved to the laundry in Athy, which was smaller but “the very same . . . cold, callous”. She “often got a box (blow)” from the nuns, particularly when she didn’t respond to the name they gave her, Frances.

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