Abandoned ireland


The Magdalen Asylum
Co. Cork.

Documenting our Heritage

The Good Shepherd Convent, Magdalen Asylum first opened on the 29th July 1872 and operated as an orphanage and a Magdalen laundry until the late 1970s.

It has been estimated that around 30,000 women were admitted during the 150-year history of the Magdalen institutions. Most were incarcerated against their will at the request of family members or priests for reasons such as prostitution, being an unmarried mother, being developmentally challenged or abused. Even young girls who were considered too promiscuous and flirtatious were sometimes sent to the Magdalen Asylum.

The Magdalen
Co. Cork


The last Magdalen Asylum in Ireland closed on September 25, 1996. The existence of the Magdalen asylums was little thought of until, in 1993, when an order of nuns in Dublin sold part of their convent to a real estate developer. The remains of 155 inmates buried in unmarked graves were discovered, and exhumed. All except for one body were cremated and reburied in a mass grave. This triggered a public scandal and became national news in 1999.

Mary Norris, Josephine McCarthy and Mary-Jo McDonagh, all asylum inmates, gave accounts of their treatment for the 1998 Channel 4 documentary ‘Sex in a Cold Climate’. The women who testified for this documentary gave accounts of continued sexual, psychological and physical abuse while being isolated from the outside world for an indefinite amount of time. The conditions inside the Good Shepherd Convent and the treatment of the inmates was dramatised in the acclaimed 2002 film ‘The Magdalene Sisters’, written and directed by Peter Mullan.

The three main buildings - a home, convent, and orphanage have been in a derelict condition since a serious fire in 2003. The laundry building was among a number of buildings that were destroyed in that fire.

The Good Shepherd Convent site was sold to developers in 2005. In 2006 it was expected that the average price of a two-bedroom apartment in the development would be Euro 450,000.

In May 2010 the Good Shepherd Convent became another casualty of the collapsing Irish property bubble; the undeveloped site was seized by Ulster Bank.