Tuesday, February 05, 2013

An Asset to the Abbey

From the Irish government report about the Magdalen Laundries, Chapter 20 discusses how the laundries were able to partially sustain themselves by getting public and commercial laundry contracts even though the women in the homes were unpaid. In a 1950s case, a commercial laundry in Limerick complained that a Magdalen laundry had won a public contract through undercutting by not paying fair wages, even though this was specified as a requirement of the contract. The laundries and the government took the view that subsistence for the women in the laundries counted as fair wages. In the course of correspondence between the aggrieved commercial laundry and the Department of Defence was this letter (page 730) --

We are in receipt of your letter of 16th inst. We cannot offer any evidence of the non-observance of Clause 15 of Conditions of Contract beyond the well known fact that the Good Shepherd Convents particularly the Good Shepherd Convent of Limerick are Institutions for the reception of delinquent women who work in the laundry during their period of incarceration, without payment of wages. We are further aware that the Good Shepherd Convent of Cork which is a kindred Institution is forbidden to tender for this Contract, owing to above facts. If however the Superior of the Good Shepherd Convent Limerick has signed the Conditions of Contract including Clause 15, stating that she pays Trade Union rates of wages to workers of the Convent laundry, we have nothing more to say. 

1950s Ireland: if Mother Superior has signed a statement that is transparently untrue, there was not much point in questioning it.