Magdalene Laundry victim awarded compensation for being held in institution as a child
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Magdalene Laundry victim awarded compensation for being held in institution as a child

A WOMAN who was held for almost seven years in one of Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Laundries has been granted compensation after a long battle with the law.

Mary Cavner was just 11 years old when she was sent to labour in the laundries after the death of her father.

Magdalene Laundries, which were run by Catholic nuns, were essentially slave-houses. Women who had ‘disgraced’ their families by falling pregnant outside of marriage or any other behaviour deemed unsuitable, were held against their will within the locked doors of the institution for an indefinite amount of time and received no wages.

Ms Cavner worked in a County Cork laundry from the ages of 11 to 17, according to the BBC. She was separated from her siblings and was allowed no contact with them.

She received no education, and says she often went hungry, working long into the night feeding and looking after the babies in the nursery as well as her other work cleaning, labouring in the laundry itself and cooking for the nuns.

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Ms Cavner’s story is unfortunately very similar to the thousands of women who were held in these institutions. The last laundry closed just 23 years ago in 1996.

The true horrors of what happened within those walls was discovered only once the last laundry was closed, the most infamous being that of a mass grave on the grounds of an institution in Tuam, Co Galway, where over 300 babies and young children are believed to have been buried.

Ms Cavner stands out due to Irish authorities’ initial decision that she was not eligible for compensation for her suffering, despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny officially apologising on behalf of the government in 2013 for the role they played in allowing this abuse to happen.

Up to 770 women have been compensated for being held in the Catholic-run institutions but  Ms Cavner was deemed ‘ineligible’.

She told the BBC that “It took all of my courage to admit what I had been through and then [the authorities] called me a liar”.

“They have made me live this again and to be accused of not telling the truth made me feel rejected”.

Now the Irish ombudsman have awarded Ms Cavner compensation to the sum of €50,000 at once, followed by €26,000 which will be paid gradually in the future.

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Ms Cavner has called the ruling “bittersweet”.