Importantly, women and men who experienced the care system run by religious orders are referred to as ‘Survivors’. After all, whilst these individuals may have been victims of neglect, abuse and assault, they survived it, and deserve to be recognised for their resilience rather than what happened to them.

Women who had children outside of marriage, women accused of being promiscuous or women who were victims of rape and sexual assault were viewed by Irish Catholic leaders, politicians and society as tainted by immorality. As part of their alleged ‘rehabilitation’, the state outsourced institutional care to religious congregations who claimed to put these ‘strayed’ women back onto the path of traditional, Catholic morality. By doing so, the state  abdicated its responsibility and duty of care to vulnerable Irish citizens, many of whom were victims of severe crimes and abuse.

Although exact figures are unknown, it is thought that over the last three centuries, hundreds of thousands of girls and women were taken into institutional care homes run by religious orders. Such homes included mother and baby homes for unmarried pregnant women, industrial schools for their children to later go on to (or for children who were from impoverished backgrounds or were victims of abuse), and Magdalene laundries where women would be forced or coerced to undertake unpaid, exhaustive manual labour.

Most of these individuals were kept in these institutions against their will, experienced poor quality, unloving care and were unprepared for life beyond the walls of the institutions. Poor education, malnutrition and physical, mental and sexual abuse was rampant in the care system run by the religious congregations.

Even after the women and their children were released from the institutions if they were released at all Survivors faced severe, structural discrimination, which meant it was very difficult to find employment or live a normal Irish life. A lack of education and skills, combined with intense prejudice, meant unemployment, inequality and poverty was experienced  by most. Many Survivors fled Ireland in search of pastures new, with a significant number choosing the UK.

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