Abandoned ireland


Further information

Magdalen Asylums grew out of the "rescue movement" in Britain and Ireland the 19th century, which had as its formal goal the rehabilitation of women who had worked as prostitutes. It has been estimated that around 30,000 women were admitted during the 150-year history of these institutions, often against their will. The last Magdalen Asylum in Ireland closed on September 25, 1996. In Ireland, the institutions were named for Mary Magdalene, a character in the Bible who repented her sins and became one of Jesus' closest followers.

In receiving patients no discrimination is made in regard to religion, colour, or nationality. After their convalescence, those who desire to remain in the home are placed under a special sister and are known as "Daughters of St. Margaret". They follow a certain rule of life but contract no religious obligations. Should they desire to remain in the convent, after a period of probation, they are allowed to become Magdalens and eventually make the vows of the Magdalen order.

To enforce order and maintain a monastic atmosphere, the inmates were required to observe strict silence for much of the day. "The Rule of Silence was a major feature of the women's lives and continues well into the second half of the twentieth century. Corporal punishment was not uncommon.

As the phenomenon became more widespread, it extended beyond prostitution, to unmarried mothers, developmentally challenged women and abused girls. Even young girls who were considered too promiscuous and flirtatious were sometimes sent to an Asylum. This paralleled the practice in State Run asylums in Britain and Ireland in the same period, where many people with "social dysfunction" were committed to asylums.

The women were typically admitted to these institutions at the request of family members or priests. Without a family member on the outside who would vouch for them, some penitents would stay in the asylums for the rest of their lives.

Redevelopment of The Good Shepherd, Convent, Cork - 200 new homes

The long-awaited redevelopment of Cork's Good Shepherd Convent, a former Magdalene laundry, has been given the go-ahead by An Bord Plean·la.

Over 200 high-end residential units will be built on the elevated eight-acre site which is beside Cork City Gaol in the Sunday's Well area of the city - just over 1kms from the city centre.

A number of attempts to develop the prime site have been made over the last 10 years. In the mid 1990s UCC had plans to use the site for academic purposes. Later, developer PJ Hegarty sought to build student accommodation at the convent. Neither of these developments came to fruition.

In 2005 Cork-based developers Frinailla Ltd purchased the site for Euro 20 million.

Going against the recommendation of its own inspector, An Bord Plean·la has now granted permission for a large residential scheme, which will see apartments provided in the three listed buildings and further apartments, duplexes and townhouses built on the site.

The residential scheme, designed by Reddy O'Riordan Staehli Architects, will be developed around three formal courtyards. Around 50 per cent of the site will be open space. Nearly all of the units will face down over Cork city.

Apartments will range in size from 51-148sq m (550-1,600sq ft) and townhouses will be around 186sq m (2,000sq ft).

It is expected that the average price of a two-bedroom apartment at the scheme will be Euro 450,000.

The developer had originally sought to build 274 units but this has been reduced to just over 200 by the local authority and the planning board.

A graveyard on the site - where more than 300 nuns are buried as well as an unknown number of women who worked in the laundry - will be retained and opened up to the public

Further reading:

CBS News Sunday Morning Report

Heil Mary Magdalen asylums and moral regulation in Ireland.

Documenting our Heritage

The Good Shepherd Magdalen Convent

Sundays Well, Cork.



Convent Grounds