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Expert panel: Ireland oversaw forced, unpaid labour in Catholic laundries for 'fallen' women

Associated Press

DUBLIN - An expert panel has found that Ireland should be legally responsible for workhouses run by Catholic nuns that once kept thousands of women and teenage girls against their will in unpaid, forced labour.

Tuesday's report analyzing the defunct Magdalene Laundries found state authorities committed about one-quarter of 10,012 women to the workhouses from 1922 to 1996, often in response to school truancy or homelessness.

Ireland stigmatized them as "fallen" women — prostitutes — but most were simply unwed mothers or daughters of them.

The report found that 15 per cent lived in the workhouses for more than five years, and police caught and returned women who fled. They endured 12-hour work days of washing and ironing.

Tuesday's findings could pave the way for a state apology and payments to survivors.

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