Magdalen plot had remains of 155 women
Joe Humphreys --Irish Times
The remains of an additional 22 women were discovered when 133 bodies were being removed from a Magdalen Laundry graveyard in north Dublin in 1993 to allow its development for housing.
All but one of the 155 bodies were then cremated at Glasnevin Cemetery.
Death certificates existed for only 75 of the initial 133 bodies, even though it is a criminal offence in this State to fail to register a death which occurs on one's premises.
The 155 bodies were removed from the graveyard because the land at High Park, Drumcondra, was being sold by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity to a property developer. They had been buried over the previous 100 years.
According to the Department of the Environment, an initial exhumation licence was granted to the Sisters on May 25th, 1993, in respect of 133 named women, one of whom, "Bridget O'Neill", was said to have died as recently as April 1987.
But the firm of undertakers carrying out the exhumations had to stop work when the remains of an additional 22 women were found. A further exhumation licence was issued on August 31st, 1993, to take out "all human remains".
The Department of the Environment has said that death certificates were provided in only 75 of the cases covered by the initial exhumation licence. The General Register Office issued "no-trace" forms for 34 other cases, and said it could not conduct a search of the remaining 24 as "insufficient details" were provided.
The Department added that in the case of the 34 "no-trace" women, "it appears that the statutory registration procedures were not complied with at the time of their deaths".
As for the remaining 24 women, only one was referred to by her first name. The rest were identified only by a religious name such as "Magdalen of Lourdes" or "Magdalen of St Teresa".
In relation to the additional bodies, the Department said it only had a record of 14 additional remains.
In its statement, the Department added that it had sought "no additional information" for the extra licence. Nor did the Department make any recommendation or direction as to whether the bodies should be cremated or reburied.
The discovery of the additional bodies, and the lack of death certificates for so many of the women, is highlighted by the investigative journalist, Mary Raftery, in her column in The Irish Times today.
In a statement replying to Ms Raftery's inquiries, Sister Ann Marie Ryan, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, said the exhumation and re-interring of the bodies of the 155 women "was approved by all relevant authorities, and we have had no queries from families about our decision in the intervening time. One family took the remains of a deceased relative to a family plot at this time. The remaining 154 were respectfully cremated and laid to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery at a public ceremony."
Attempts by The Irish Times to contact Sister Ryan for further comment yesterday proved unsuccessful
Between this and the christian brothers' abuse cases the irish church (specifically irish, I make no accusations about the church in general) has done a sterling job of destroying lives here, and for all of this, people are still more interested in a good sermonising than they are in their own personal spirituality.
And through all of this, the government still stands firmly by the church, offering to pay compensation awarded against the church to victims of abuse - physical, sexual or psychological.
There's a song called The Magdalene Laundries by Joni Mitchell from a chieftans album (apparantly)
I was an unmarried girl
I'd just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for Heaven
I'd be cast in shame
Into the Magdalene laundries
Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
We're trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the streaming stains
Of the Magdalene laundries
Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery
Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they'd know and they'd drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They'd like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries
Peg O'Connell died today
She was a cheeky girl
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God you'd think at least some bells should ring!
One day I'm going to die here too
And they'll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring