Kathy's Story: A Childhood Hell Inside the Magdalen Laundries by Kathy O'Beirne
Kathy O'Beirne's earliest memories are of being battered and sexually abused. Unable to confide in anyone about the beatings she regularly received from her father or about the boys who made her play dirty games, she became withdrawn and self-destructive, leading a psychiatrist to diagnose her as 'a child with a troublesome mind'. As a result, aged only eight, Kathy was removed from the family home and incarcerated in a series of institutions. In the first, a reformatory school run by a holy order on behalf of the Irish State, she was raped by a visiting priest. When she tried to get help, she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where the abuse continued, along with the administration of large amounts of drugs and electric shock treatment. At the age of twelve, Kathy was sent to a Magdalen laundry. These notorious workhouses operated in Ireland throughout the twentieth century and during that time thousands of young girls, some orphans, some pregnant and some considered 'at risk' in the community, were forced to slave in horrendous conditions. Locked away from their families and the outside world, many of the girls were cruelly punished and sexually abused by the staff or lay visitors. Kathy fell victim to one of these predators and gave birth to baby Annie just weeks before her fourteenth birthday. The little girl had a serious bowel condition but lived to the age of ten, providing the only light in Kathy's blighted life. After all that she has suffered, Kathy has now come forward to tell her harrowing story in the hope that more will be done to help survivors of institutional abuse. She recounts her tragic experiences in unflinching detail but what is most remarkable is the strength of character that shines through such a dark tale. It is this strength that has enabled her to survive and fired her continuing struggle for justice.