Belfast Telegraph

Former Magdalene residents called on to take part in new research

By Allan Preston

Former residents of Magdalene laundries and mother and baby homes in Northern Ireland have been urged to take part in new research.

Hundreds of local women were forced to stay in facilities run by the state, as well as Catholic and Protestant organisations.

Relatively little is known about how the organisations here were run compared to those in the Irish Republic.

There, survivors of Magdalene laundries and their relatives have relived the horrors of rape, abuse and lost lives as they renewed calls for redress.

Last month, a BBC investigation reported that some children may have been moved out of the UK without their mothers’ consent from Marianvale mother and baby home in Newry, which operated between 1955 and 1984.

The Department of Health has commissioned a year-long research project to build up a detailed picture of the day-to-day practices of a number of relvant institutions, which may be used to decide if a full public inquiry is needed.

The researchers have also confirmed they will address the allegations of illegal adoption.

Professor Sean O’Connell from Queen’s University, Belfast is leading the research with Dr Leanne McCormick from Ulster University.

Professor O’Connell said: “A smaller number of residential homes operated as so-called Magdalene laundries and a large number of women worked in them, for various lengths of time.

“We know a lot about the general history of these mother and baby homes and Magdalene homes; for example, they were all closed by the 1980s and 1990s.

“However, much is unknown about the circumstances in which young women found themselves in these institutions.”

Dr McCormick urged women who experienced life as a resident of a mother and baby home and/or a Magdalene laundry in Northern Ireland to come forward.

Others with dealings with these institutions at any point before the 1990s have been encouraged to take part. They include clergy, members of religious orders, social workers, family welfare officers, adoption agency employees, medical staff and health and safety inspectors.

Dr McCormick said she understood the experiences were deeply personal and could be distressing for residents and their wider families.

“We can reassure any participants that the research will be conducted in a sensitive manner and that there will also be support systems in place for those who choose to come forward to share their personal testimony.

“The identities of all interviewees will also be anonymous and will not be revealed without their written permission.”

The institutions included in the research are:

1 Good Shepherd Sisters / Marianville / St Mary’s - 511 Ormeau Rd, Belfast - Type: Mother and Baby Home / Magdalene Laundry

2 Good Shepherd Sisters/ Marianvale / St Mary’s - 132 Armagh Rd, Newry - Type: Mother and Baby Home / Magdalene Laundry

3 Good Shepherd Sisters / St Mary’s - Derry Magdalene Laundry, 4 Mater Dei Hostel, 298 Antrim Rd, Belfast - Type: Mother and Baby Home

5 Belfast Midnight Mission / Malone Place Rescue and Maternity Home - Malone Road, Belfast - Type: Mother and Baby Home / Magdalene Laundry

6 Thorndale House (Salvation Army) - Duncairn Avenue, Belfast - Type: Mother and Baby Home

7 Kennedy House - 8 Cliftonville Ave, Belfast - Type: Mother and Baby Home

8 Hopedene Hostel - 55 Dundeal Avenue - Type: Mother and Baby Home

9 Belfast Welfare Hostel - Lisburn Rd, Belfast - Type: Local authority former workhouse

10 Coleraine Welfare Hostel - Type: Local authority former workhouse

11 Mount Oriel Hostel - 4 Mount Oriel, Belfast - Type: Mother and Baby Home

12 Deanery Flatlets - Type: Independent accommodation for unwed mothers

13 Pre-1948 Workhouses - Type: Multifunctional institutions that catered for various groups including unmarried mothers

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