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about the project

The primary focus of this project is the survivors; the women whose stories we aim to honour.  Given the relative cultural “invisibility” of many of the survivors of these institutions at the time of their incarceration (and often for decades afterwards) it appears particularly vital to remember, commemorate and learn from their experiences at a local, and national, and international level.  The proposed project is intended to further the aim of remembering a period in Irish history where society’s legal, constitutional and moral obligations were sometimes overlooked; and in the case of this cohort of women and children, largely ignored altogether.

Gathering and analysing these oral histories are essential to documenting our cultural heritage.  This project will present the stories of the women held in these institutions, but will also locate these stories within a larger social and historical narrative informed by archival research. The proposed project has the potential to make a significant contribution to understandings of Irish history, and to an international understanding of the Magdalene institutions and Industrial Schools specifically. While some historians have been able to access records about the Magdalene Asylums of the 19th century, it is more difficult to assess the role and functions of these institutions in the 20th century, given that many of the institutions have only recently closed; and records have thus to date been largely inaccessible.  Hence, documenting the history of the institutions during this time period will contribute to a public understanding of the cultural, political and economic significance to our Irish heritage.  

We hope that this collation of digital material will provide educational supports ranging from local schools to professional researchers interested in Irish memory and history, and will form a crucial part of any further academic work to be undertaken on this subject. Historical, archival research, combined with professional analysis, is necessary to aid in providing a more representative understanding of the social, cultural and political history and the legacy for modern Ireland and our cultural heritage.

Content warning

The following recordings include a discussion of the harsh treatment experienced by children and women in Ireland's Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries and may include discussion of child maltreatment (including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse), or related discussion of trauma that some people may find offensive and/or difficult.


If you are upset by any of the material, a list of resources is available here

"This project is about more than research and educational pursuits; there is a genuine responsibility to recognise the trauma these women suffered in silence, and respond to their needs and desire to disseminate their stories according to their wishes.  As Principal Investigator for this project, I am both honoured and humbled by these women and their bravery to publicly tell their stories.  This project is not about giving the Magdalene survivors a voice – it is about providing the platform for their voice to be heard, and co-producing knowledge and resources and Ireland's history of coercive incarceration."

Dr. Jennifer O'Mahoney


This project has been funded by the Heritage Council under the Community based Heritage Grant Scheme 2015.

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