Women on second pregnancy at Tuam home were sent to Magdalene laundries

Commission finds 14 mothers discharged directly to laundry in line with council policy

It was a policy of Galway County Council that women in the Tuam mother and baby home, who were on a second or third pregnancy and sought public assistance, should be directed to a Magdalene laundry, a State investigation has found.

Women who refused to go to a laundry “were told to remove their child from the Tuam home”. In its report published on Wednesday the Mother and Baby Homes Commission said it had not seen any “evidence of a similar policy articulated by other local authorities”.

It found that 14 women were discharged directly from Tuam to a Magdalene laundry, while records relating to children who were in Tuam without their mother showed “that a further 84 women were admitted to a Magdalen [sic] laundry at a later date”.

The commission commented “it is most likely that these women were on their second or subsequent pregnancy and, in line with Galway County policy, they were directed to enter a Magdalen laundry when they sought public assistance.”


In 13 other cases it found that children were “admitted to Tuam unaccompanied while their mothers were admitted to a Magdalen laundry”. A further 22 women, “all admitted to the Tuam home on second or subsequent pregnancies, were directed by Galway County Manager to seek admission to a Magdalen laundry”. If they refused “they were told to remove their child from the Tuam home” but the commission “could not establish whether or not these women actually entered a Magdalen laundry” .

The more extensive evidence was available from Tuam as children remained there for several years and suggested “that many former residents of the mother and baby homes were admitted to Magdalen laundries not directly from the mother and baby homes but at a later period in their lives, perhaps following the birth of a second child”.

It also found that “four children born in or admitted to the Tuam home were subsequently admitted to a Magdalen laundry in their teens or in early childhood”.

Where other homes were concerned, it found that “206 women who were in the three Sacred Heart Homes, Bessborough in Cork, Sean Ross in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Castlepollard in Westmeath” were discharged to a Magdalene laundry or a Good Shepherd convent.

This amounted to “less than 1 per cent of total admissions”. Similar numbers of women were admitted to the laundries from the Pelletstown home, on the Navan Road in Dublin, it said.

Where women at the Stranorlar county home in Donegal were concerned, 20 were admitted to the Good Shepherd convent in Derry, most of whom “had multiple pregnancies”. This, the commission felt, was “probably an underestimate” of women admitted to the Derry laundry from that county home as records for women leaving it related to just 16 per cent of its former residents.

In Cork, 88 women from the Bessborough home were admitted to a Magdalene laundry, all but one of them before 1960.

The commission noted how the 2013 McAleese report into the Magdalene laundries recorded that 313 women were sent to laundries by mother and baby homes and adoption societies.

“An additional 349 women were sent to Magdalene laundries from county and city homes though many of these were women who had not given birth,” the commission said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times