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Magdalene Laundry Survivor Claims Life 'Destroyed' By Nuns

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Maureen Sullivan is the youngest known survivor admitted to one of the Magdalene laundries.

She was an innocent 12-year-old child when taken from her school in Co Carlow and put in the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, Co Wexford, because her father died and mother remarried.

maureen sullivan magdalene

Maureen Sullivan wants a full apology for the years she spent in a Magdalene Laundry

Ms Sullivan said she was told that this place would further her education, but she never saw her schoolbooks again.

For 48 years she had been haunted by memories of a lost childhood and slave labour and is demanding a full apology from the Government and religious orders for stealing her education, name, identity and life.

"I feel that they are still in denial, but other parts of this report clearly state that we were telling the truth," she said.

By day she worked in the laundry, was fed bread and dripping, and then made Aran sweaters or rosary beads before going to bed at night in St Aidan's Industrial School.

"It was long, hard tedious work and because I was small they made a timber box," said the 60-year-old.

"I remember being hidden in a tunnel when the school inspectors came.

I can only assume that this was due to the fact that I should not have been working in the laundry."

Even at the weekends, the youngster was forced to clean the floors of the local church when she should have been out playing, enjoying life and meeting other children.

"How come all this was taken from me?" she asks.

"The nuns have destroyed my life and they never allowed me to develop as a young girl.

"I was only a young girl of 12 years of age."

Several courageous, brave and determined women fighting for justice for other survivors, and thousands more who have died, spoke out about the physical and physiological abuse they suffered behind locked doors, which they said were revamped for visiting dignitaries.

Mary Smyth said was forced to follow in the steps of her mother who had also been one of the Magdalene women when she became pregnant.

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She said when growing up in an industrial school she never realised there could be worse to some, and went in to shock when she first walked through the doors of a laundry, which were locked behind her.

The 60-year-old believes she was treated like a slave and had her dignity, identity and life taken from her for fear she would follow in her mother's footsteps.

"My name was changed, my hair was chopped off, all my possessions were taken from me," she said.

"I didn't eat for three weeks. I wanted to die."

Ms Smyth has described her time in the Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday's Well, Cork, as hell and revealed she was afraid to have children as an adult in case she was locked up.

"It was horrendous and inhumane. It was worse than any prison," she continued.

She said she will go to the grave with the pain of what happened to her.

"It was soul destroying, it will never ever leave me," she said.

"I think the government should stand up be counted and the religious need to acknowledge the damage that they done to us and the scars that they left and the pain that will never ever go away."