Critique of various articles promoting 'Kathy's Story'.
In the following articles Kathy repeatedly speaks of getting the word 'penitents' removed from a 'mass grove in Glasnevin cematry, she also states that women that died in the Magdalene laundries were wrapped in sheets and 'dumped' in mass graves.
Only after the Sisters of Charity issued a statement to say the stone refered to is actually a tribute to the 'Ladies of Monto', and does not refer to magdalenes did Kathy's statements change to 'monument'.She is also quoted in the article by the Irish Catholic as stating (when questioned on 'mass graves'), 'what mass graves, you'd want to get your facts right, I never said that'.( this was after the nuns stated there are no mass graves for magdalenes).
The porpose of the hunger strike originally was to get the word erased, then changed to getting her mothers letters. Considering she was only in St Annes Kilmacud for six weeks, the one letter from her mother wasn't altogether over emotional.
The meeting she speaks of with the justice minister, was to our knowledge actually totally different to Kathy's report. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity appealed to the Minister to intervene and get Kathy's allegations investigated by the state, unfortunatly, it would seem, there was a serious lack of cooperation (not by the sisters), and the investigation went no where. The gardai in Harcourt St press office might be helpful to any journalist researching this.
The 'hungar strike' was not 3 days, it was, according to our information (from media sources), not even one - Kathy was brought a take away by friends, and allegedly brought sandwiches with her.
There seems to be also a little confusion as regards the alleged rape that allegedly resulted in a child, some sources quote Kathy as saying it was a priest, others most definitly quote her as saying it was a lay visitor.
Kathy states she was 8 when she went to St Annes in Kilmacud, but documentation has her there at 11 in 1968. This would seem more correct as she was born in 1956.
The earliest she could have been in a laundry is 17 - which would be 1973.
Which leads to another strange discrepency, in almost all of the earlier reports she is 43 in 2005, but she is in reality 50 this year, why the difference.
There are other annomolies, the RIRB claim, the alleged donation to the charities etc.
The allegations against her father are as horrific as the allegations against the psychiatric hospital, the nuns, the lay visitors who raped her etc, how can the publishers say they have verified these stories ?, they didn't approach her family.
Read the stories below.
The News of the World
May 8, 2005
MAGDALEN SURVIVOR KATHY O'BEIRNETELLS OF HER NIGHTMARE CHILDHOOD
RAPED BY A PRIEST, WHIPPED BY NUNS
A MAGDALEN laundry survivor has revealed the horrifying abuse she suffered before and after she was locked in the institution.
Kathy O'Beirne, who has scars on her body from years of beatings, has told the Irish News of the World of the nightmare she lived through as a child.
Kathy, in her 40s, of Clondalkin, in Dublin, endured thrashings from her father as well as sexual abuse from two boys before being sent away.
Then Kathy, aged only ten, was repeatedly RAPED by a priest and regularly WHIPPED by nuns.
When she reported the abuse she was sent to a MENTAL HOSPITAL. Now brave Kathy is fighting for the word "penitent", meaning sinners, to be removed from the mass Magdalen grave in Glasnevin cemetery.
Kathy said: "I was consigned to a hell of beatings and abuse. Tears replaced laughter, pain replaced pleasure. It was one long scream of suffering which has haunted all of my adult life."
Kathy, who was the oldest daughter of nine children, was not only beaten by her father but often locked in the shed.
She said: "My father Oliver, a builder's labourer, presented an image of respectability. He went to Mass every day and was a daily communicant. But at home he was a cruel and violent man. He regularly beat me with his belt. The buckle would cut into my legs and the flesh wounds often turned septic.
"One night he held my hand in a pan of hot grease-the pain was unbearable."
At the age of five, two boys began to sexually abuse Kathy and on the eve of her First Holy Communion one raped her.
After that she was labelled as "a child with a troublesome mind" by a psychiatrist and a social worker in Ballyfermot. She was soon carted off to an industrial school where she was put to work.
Kathy recalls: "I was not allowed to go to the classroom-I had been demoted from pupil to slave. This school was a training ground for the Magdalen laundries. The quicker the nuns got them accustomed to slave labour, the better they would fit into the laundry regime.
"According to the nuns, this was our punishment for being wicked sinners. This penance, they informed us, was the only way to save our souls and keep us from the hell fires of the devil.
"Many of the girls in the school, including myself, were so traumatised that we would frequently wet the bed."
Kathy remembers with horror the day a priest in this State institution raped her.
She said: "At first, the priest pretended to be kind to me and said that he would help me to get out of the reformatory school and back to my home. But after a short while, he started touching me.
"He would reach under his robe and rub himself at the same time. It got worse and worse until one day he followed me into the dormitory and forced himself on me.
"On two other occasions he locked me in an office and raped me. I decided I had to tell someone. Instead of trying to help me, a nun told me that I needed my mouth washed out, that I was evil and would burn in hell.
"The week after I spoke to her, I was taken to a city hospital. I remember the bang of the big doors closing behind me. I was ten years old and because I had dared to tell the truth I was now trapped in a psychiatric hospital."
In the hospital Kathy was given daily doses of largactil, which was used to treat schizophrenia, and injected with a horse tranquilliser called Ketamine.
Kathy also suffered electric shock treatment. She said: "The pain from the electric shocks was terrible. It was like lightning shooting through my body. My body was jerking about on the table and I was shaking and screaming.
"When you got upset, they would try to shut you up by giving you electric shock treatment or more drugs."
Kathy was also sexually abused by lay people who visited them in hospital.
She said: "They would come in and pick a child to take out for the day. We were supposed to be taken somewhere nice but often this was just an excuse for them to sexually abuse you. I was taken out a few times and this happened to me.
"Some of the staff also abused us. They would usually come into the dormitory and touch you under the bedclothes."
The News of the World
May 15, 2005
JAIL WAS EASY AFTER MAGDALEN NIGHTMARE
Part 2 of our devastating series I was happy there, says abuse victim
THE clap of a cop's hand on teenage runaway Kathy O'Beirne's shoulder filled her with dread.
Terrified she would be sent back to suffer more physical and sexual hell in a Magdalen laundry, the 15- year-old begged for mercy.
And in a strange way, she got it. For instead of being handed over to the brutal Magdalen nuns, delighted Kathy was thrown into Mountjoy jail for shoplifting.
"I remember my time in Mountjoy as one of the happiest periods of my childhood," said Kathy. "Prison was a breeze compared to life in the Magdalen laundries."
Kathy, now in her 40s, was nabbed with pal Patricia after the pair nicked a raincoat each from a Pennys store in Dublin.
The girls had been living on the streets for several weeks after fleeing the Magdalen laundry where they slaved.
Desperate to put yet more distance between themselves and their tormentors, Kathy and Patricia picked phone box locks to get enough money for some passport photos.
But then the heavens opened and the teenagers turned to shoplifting to stay dry.
After nervously glancing round to see if they had been spotted, Kathy and Patricia strolled out of Pennys wearing stolen raincoats.
With childish logic, the girls left their worn-out coats in the shop.
But in their haste to avoid being caught, the youngsters forgot all about the passport snaps tucked in their old coat pockets.
It was all gardai needed and they were quickly arrested.
At the time, their tender years were not a bar to being jailed-and they were sentenced to three months in the clink.
Yet instead of fearing being caged, Kathy WELCOMED it. She explained: "Nobody ever hit or abused me while I was in prison.
"I had new, clean clothes and I got three square meals a day.
"We were supplied with sanitary towels, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. I even used a hairdryer for the first time in Mountjoy.
"The work in prison was also nowhere near as tough as that in the laundries. And I went to school while in prison-which was the first time I had been in a classroom in a long time."
It was a far cry from the hell Kathy suffered after being sent to a Magdalen laundry at the age of ten.
Already an abuse victim, Kathy hoped she would be protected by the nuns who took over as "family".
But instead she was brutally beaten and worked to the bone, then raped by a lay visitor when she was 14.
Kathy revealed: "I was singled out by a visitor much older than me. He gave me sweets and cigarettes and seemed to take a real interest in me, asking me questions about my life during walks in the grounds.
"But then one Sunday he led me up to a big green shed in the grounds, pulled me down on the ground, put his hand over my mouth and raped me.
"Months later, after being in the height of agony for three days, I gave birth to a baby girl."
But instead of sympathy from the nuns, they branded Kathy a sinner- and after three months took the tot off her and sent her back to work.
Distraught Kathy, who now lives in Clondalkin, Dublin, recalled: "The irony was that we turned out to be at even greater risk inside these institutions, where we were supposed to be protected, than out.
"There were many girls who had been raped and become pregnant after they had entered the laundries.
"None were allowed to keep their babies. They had to leave them and go back to the laundries.
"These girls spoke about the babies being collected once a month and driven to the north of Ireland to meet a ship going to America. The nuns considered the Maggies, as the girls were known, as sinners who were heading straight for the fires of hell."
Kathy's own child, who she named Annie, was not sold to a rich American. But only because the tot was too ill. "My little girl had been born with a rare condition," explained Kathy.
"I was told she wasn't well enough to be put up for adoption and that she would stay in the care of the nuns.
"On her tenth birthday, Annie finally lost her battle for life and left this world behind her."
Tots were not the only ones to die. Many of the women forced to work in the laundries also passed away.
And Kathy is now campaigning to have the word "penitent"-meaning sinner- removed from their graves.
She said: "Every time I visit the Magdalen graves at Glasnevin I feel a wave of revulsion about the headstone, which declares that all the girls who were buried there were penitents, or sinners.
"I am desperate for this to be removed or for another more fitting and sensitive memorial to be erected on the same site.
"I am determined these girls will be given some dignity in their final resting place."
DON'T BELIEVE A WORD: Kathy is determined to end the stigma surrounding the numerous girls who died at the Magdalen laundry.
She is campaigning to have the word 'penitents' -meaning sinners-removed from their graves, as shown on the headstone here.
Kathy has even threatened to go on a hunger strike unless the young women, who were worked so hard in life, are shown dignity in death.
June 7, 2005, Tuesday
I'M NOT AFRAID OF ANYONE NOW.. I'M READY TO DIE TO GET JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS;
KATHY TELLS HORROR TALE OF SLAVERY & ABUSE IN MAGDALENE LAUNDRIES
BY MICHAEL DOYLE
Kathy O'Beirne was only eight when a psychiatrist diagnosed her as a "child with a troublesome mind".
She had suffered years of physical and mental torture at the hands of her cruel father.
And on the eve of her first Holy Communion she was violently raped by two older boys near her home in Clondalkin, Dublin.
She was just seven years of age.
But this was just the start for the oldest girl of nine children.
AT eight she was locked up in a reform school run by a religious order and was raped by a visiting priest
SHE was then transferred to the children's unit of a psychiatric hospital to undergo terrifying drug and electric shock treatment to make her "forget"
AT 12 she was sent to a Magdalene Laundry where she slaved in horrendous conditions, receiving regular whippings from the nuns and sexual assaults from lay visitors, and
AT 14 she gave birth to a baby girl, Annie, after being raped. Her daughter had a serious health condition and died at the age of 10.
Now Kathy, 44, has come forward to lift the lid on the evil committed during one of the most disturbing chapters in Irish history and to tell her harrowing story in the hope that more will be done to help the survivors of institutional abuse.
She spoke exclusively to the Irish Daily Mirror just a week before the launch of her much-anticipated book, Kathy's Story: A Childhood Hell Inside the Magdalen Laundries.
Kathy said: "I feel my story had to be told. It was like a volcano inside me always ready to explode. So much evil was done there and there was a voice inside me shouting 'Justice'.
"Not just for me but for so many more.
"Ten years ago I wouldn't have sat here talking to you because I was too ashamed.
"But after a hard 11 years writing this book, and a second one I'm nearly finished called The Aftermath: Who am I?, I feel I've finally been set free.
"In the 50s and 60s the Catholic Church ran this country but they don't run it any more. When you think how afraid people were of the Catholic Church - I was afraid myself, I was terrified.
"I'm not afraid now. I'm not afraid of any priest or any nun, nothing.
"With all the people I have been afraid of, I couldn't meet anybody that I could be that afraid of again."
In her gripping book, Kathy recounts her tragic experiences in unflinching detail starting with the regular beatings and abuse she suffered at home by her father Oliver, a daily mass-goer who, she says, always painted a picture of "respectability".
She also reveals her love for her mother who endured years of mental torture at the hands of her husband although, despite his violent ways, he never lifted a hand to her.
But it wasn't until the reform school that Kathy's life descended into an unending nightmare.
The Magdalene Laundries were notorious workhouses that operated in Ireland throughout the 20th century.
The "Maggies", as the inmates were known, were forced to live a slave-like existence.
Kathy said the hardship she endured behind those walls nearly killed her and she had to open up. She added: "It ate away at me. I have a bowel disease. I've had eight major operations. I nearly died three times. "This bowel disease that I have killed my mother. It killed my daughter and it killed my relations.
"I'm always in and out of hospital but if that's all the suffering that I'm going to have to endure to get justice then that's what I'm going to do.
"We were done wrong to. We were innocent people and the perpetrators are getting away scot-free.
"So many of the young girls became pregnant, including myself, and we were branded as sinners. All the babies were taken to the North, put on a ship and sold off to wealthy American families.
"There is no way for the mothers to trace their children or for the children to trace their real parents if they ever find out they're adopted.
"My Annie wasn't because she was very ill but I did see her and she was well looked after."
She described a stint in Mountjoy Prison when she was 15 as one of the happiest phases of her teenage years.
She said: "Myself and my friend ran away from one of the laundries. We tried to shoplift a raincoat each from Penneys but got caught.
"The judge jailed us for three months but I didn't want to leave Mountjoy because I knew I'd be sent back to the laundry.
"I was treated like a queen in jail - I had dry clothes, three square meals a day and never had to worry about anyone laying a hand on me."
Her fight for justice will include a hunger strike outside one of the former laundries in a bid to have the word "penitent" removed from the mass Magdalene Laundry grave in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.
Kathy added: "It means sinner and that is just wrong. I have a letter from my doctor advising me not to do it but I'm prepared to die to get what is right.
"I firmly believe that the Lord let me survive, because thousands didn't, to get justice for me and everyone else who was done wrong to in those institutions."
The proceeds of the book are going to three charities - the Magdalen Graves, a children's hospital in Dublin and to Romanian children.
The News of the World
July 3, 2005
NUNS HID MY MUM'S LETTERS 36 YEARS
'They're abusing me again'
EVIL school nuns kept a cruel secret from Kathy O'Beirne as they physically and sexually abused her.
For 36 years she believed her mother Annie had abandoned her as an eight-year old child.
But Annie had written to her every week and sent presents which the nuns at St Anne's Industrial School in Kilmacud, Dublin, never passed on.
Then Kathy, right, who spent 21 years of hell in institutions including the Magdalen Laundries, discovered the truth when she read her dead mother's diary.
But the Sisters of Charity are still unreptentant. St Anne's School has been pulled down, but they still have the letters. And they wouldn't talk to the Irish News of the World this week about them.
But Kathy, now 43, wants them back and along with hundreds of supporters she's planning a protest march on the Magdalen Laundry in High Park, where the letters are beingheld.
She said yesterday: "I suffered horrific sexual, physical and mental abuse by these nuns.
"Refusing to give my mother's letters to me for all these years is like abusing me all over again."
The News of the World
July 3, 2005
END KATHY'S SUFFERING
BRAVE Kathy O'Beirne was sexually and physically abused by brutal nuns for 21 years.
Now she is facing her abuse nightmare all over again.
Precious letters written to Kathy by her mum have been kept from her, by the so-called Sisters of Charity, for the past 36 years.
Now with her mum dead, these letters can, in a small way, help to make up for her lost years.
But the nuns refuse to hand them over. They should do the decent thing and not only return her letters but also publicly apologise to Kathy for the terrible trauma they have put her through.
She has suffered enough at the hands of the Sisters of Charity.
The News of the World
July 10, 2005
HUNGER STRIKE FOR KATH
A MAGDALEN Laundry survivor has gone on hunger strike in a bid to get letters cruel nuns have kept from her for decades.
Kathy O'Beirne, 43, won huge support yesterday as she led a group of protesters - other survivors from brutal schools run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity.
They marched to the nun's High Park convent in Drumcondra.
And Kathy said her hunger strike would last until the nuns agreed to give her the letters from her mum they are still holding there.
The plucky Dubliner said she was prepared to die to get them.
Kathy, who was sexually and physically abused in institutions, was at St Anne's Industrial School in Kilmacud, Dublin from the ages of eight.
And her mum Annie wrote to her every week. But heartless nuns never gave her the letters.
Kathy said: "It is very sad that I have to starve myself to get back what belongs to me.
"I spent years as a child thinking my mum had abandoned me but all the time she had sending me letters of love."
Kathy also wants the nuns to remove the word 'penitents', meaning sinners, from a Magdalen monument in Glasnevin cemetery.
The News of the World
July 24, 2005
JUSTICE Minister Michael McDowell has agreed to help a Magdalen Laundry survivor who was on hunger strike.
Kathy O'Beirne, 43, began her protest in a bid to get letters from her mum that cruel nuns kept from her for 35 years.
The plucky Dubliner spent three days without food outside High Park convent in Drumcondra but the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity refused to confront her.
She finally came off the strike when she managed to arrange a meeting with Minister Michael McDowell who promised to look at her case.
Kathy, who was sexually and physically abused in institutions for 21 years said: "Those letters my mother wrote to me while I was at St Anne's Industrial School in Kilmacud mean the world to me and I want them back.
"I was only eight when I was sent there and I was left thinking my mum had abandoned me but all the time she had been sending me letters.
"I managed to arrange a meeting with the Minister for Justice on Wednesday so I came off the hunger strike. He listened to what I had to say and told me he would look at my case.
"I am disgusted they did not have the decency to meet me."
Kathy also wants the nuns to remove the word "penitents" meaning sinners, from a Magdalen monument in Glasnevin cemetery.
The News of the World
July 31, 2005
GIRLS NO LONGER 'SINNERS'
A MAGDALEN survivor was celebrating last night after someone erased the the word penitent from a monument to those who died in the infamous laundries.
Kathy O'Beirne has waged an 11-year battle to replace the monument which labelled the Magdalen girls as 'sinners'.
The plucky 43-year-old Dubliner even went on hunger strike but callous Sisters of Mercy superiors still refused to remove the penitent stigma.
Now, a campaign supporter sneaked into Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery and chiselled off the words 'penitents' and 'asylum'.
Kathy, who was sexually and physically abused in institutions for 21 years, said: "I am over the moon. I feel fantastic. I am dancing with joy."
She said she has a bottle of champagne waiting for the culprit.
The News of the World April 16, 2006 Sunday
The News of the World
October 16, 2005
KATHY IN QUEST TO SEE POPE
ABUSE survivor Kathy O'Beirne went to Rome this week to get the word 'penitents' removed from a monument for the Magdalen dead.
Kathy, who was physically and sexually abused in institutions for 21 years, took a petition to the Pope demanding the sinners stigma be removed from the monument in Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery.
The 43-year-old has battled for 11 years to replace the memorial, but the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity have refused to let her.
Kathy said: "More than two thousand people have signed the petition to get the word 'penitents' meaning sinners removed from the monument.
"I had to travel to the Pope in Rome in the hope he would listen because nobody here in Ireland is.
"It is disgraceful that I have to go to these lengths but I will not stop until the Magdalen dead are resting in peace with the dignity they deserve."
Kathy decided to go to Rome after the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity replaced the word 'penitents' after a mystery vandal chiselled it off.
October 23, 2005
MAGDALEN VICTIM QUITS FAITH
A DEVOUT Catholic who endured years of horrific abuse in religious institutions has finally turned her back on her faith.
Magdalen laundry survivor Kathy O'Beirne, 43, amazingly continued to be a practising Catholic despite a childhood of being beaten and raped while in the care of callous priests and nuns. But after the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity refused to remove the word "penitent" -meaning sinners-from a Magdalen monument in Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery, Kathy has become a Born Again Christian.
May 20, 2006 Saturday
YOURLIFE: I WAS SENT TO A MENTAL INSTITUTION;
WHEN I TOLD A NUN THE PRIEST HAD RAPED ME.. PART 1 OF OUR UNMISSABLE BOOK SERIALISATION
KATHY O'Beirne suffered in silence during a childhood of unimaginable abuse.
Beaten mercilessly by her father, she was also molested by local boys. When, at the age of eight, she was sent to a Catholic home the abuse continued at the hands of brutal nuns and a perverted priest.
Kathy plucked up courage to confide in a nun - only to end up being sectioned in a mental institution. From there she was sent to one of the infamous Irish Magdalene laundries, where the torture and torment continued.
In our first extract we tell of how Kathy, now in her 40s and from Clondalkin, Dublin, survived her early life.
On Monday we recount her determination to highlight the suffering of herself and the other Magdalene girls.
'TO the outside world, my father presented an image of I respectability. He was a handsome man, well built at 15 stone, who dressed immaculately.
Oliver, a builder's labourer, went to Mass every day and, to the people on our estate, he appeared to be a highly religious pillar of the community. But inside our small home he became a cruel and violent man who subjected his family to a terrible life of mental and physical abuse.
He regularly beat my eight brothers and sisters and me with his belt. The buckle would cut into my legs and the flesh wounds often turned septic.
He would put our hands in the crack of the kitchen door and press it with his foot until we passed out with pain.
One night, when he was in a particularly bad rage, he held my hand in a pan of hot grease. The pain was unbearable. I closed my eyes and screamed, so he threw me outside the back door while he ate his dinner.
For reasons I don't understand he often singled me out, accusing me of having "the devil in me", and regularly left me outside all night, even when it was thick with snow.
WHEN I was five two local boys, one much older than me, began to lift up my dress and touch my body.
I had no idea what they were doing to me, only that it made me feel dirty, but they said if I told anyone I would be taken away from my mammy.
The night before I was to make my first holy communion, aged seven - a very special day in the life of a Catholic child - one of these boys raped me. The pain was worse than anything my father had done to me and the following day it hurt even to put one foot in front of the other.
A few months afterwards, my father told me he and a nun were taking me on a trip to the seaside. I was baffled but utterly overjoyed and insisted on wearing my communion dress for the occasion.
However, we never made it to the seaside. It was a cruel trick my father had played to lure me to a home for "problem children" run by nuns. As we arrived at the front door of the grim, forbidding building, he grabbed me roughly by the hand and said: "You're going to be staying here for a while."
I was devastated and cried to go home to my mammy. The Reverend Mother told me: "You are here to do what you are told. There will be no more of your bold behaviour."
I was then put to work, scrubbing and cleaning, with the rest of the girls imprisoned there. We were beaten with belts for what was seen as misbehaviour, however slight. I was also given the job of clearing away the religious implements after Mass on Sunday. At first the priest pretended to be nice to me and said he would help me to get out of the reformatory school and back home.
But then he started touching me and putting his hands into my pants.
He would reach under his robes and rub himself at the same time.
When I complained he said: "Well, you do want to go home, don't you?" before reminding me not to tell anyone what had gone on.
A few months after my arrival I was allowed home for Christmas.
I couldn't wait to see my mother and was sure she would prevent my father sending me back to the home. But she couldn't stop him and was threatened that, if she tried, my father would send her away too.
BACK at the home, the abuse from the priest got worse and, locking me in the Reverend Mother's office, he would rape me.
I decided I had to tell the nun what was going on, hopeful she would stop it.
Instead, she took me to a psychiatrist at the local hospital, who signed the necessary papers to have me committed, aged 10, to a mental institution.
There I was reunited with other girls from the home who had made similar allegations about the priest.
They drugged me with something which I have since discovered was commonly prescribed for schizophrenia and mania. It left me like a zombie.
I was also given electric shock treatment. When I tried to run away they increased the drug dose.
Two years later I was called to the office, where the psychiatrist told me I was being sent to a new school. While I hated it in the hospital, I was terrified of where I might end up next.
However, I was taken in a taxi to yet another institution, a convent which was to be my new home.
The Reverend Mother was waiting for me and said: "You have been sent here because you still have not learned how to behave. You are here to work, and work you will."
I was handed an overall and led to what looked like a huge shed. Inside, the noise of clanking, churning machinery was overwhelming and there were clouds of steam swirling around.
The place stank of chemicals, detergent and sweat and was unbearably hot.
This was the first sight I got of a Magdalene laundry.
I was 12 years old and I had just been delivered to hell.
ADAPTED BY HELEN CARROLL
May 22, 2006 Monday
YOURLIFE: MY STAY IN PRISON WAS A RELIEF;
PART 2 OF OUR UNMISSABLE BOOK SERIALISATION
ADAPTED BY HELEN CARROLL
BEATEN cruelly by her father and raped on the eve of her first communion, Kathy O'Beirne silently endured a hellish childhood.
She emerged from a mental institution, only to be sent to one of the infamous Irish Magdalene laundries, where the torture and torment continued. Here, Kathy, now in her 40s and from Clondalkin, Dublin, tells how she is fighting for justice for herself and her fellow Magdalene girls.
'AFTER a day in the furnace-like atmosphere of the laundry I would collapse into bed, exhausted. The nuns considered the Maggies, as we were known, to be the scum of the earth - sinners who would never earn redemption and fallen women heading straight for the burning fires of hell.
The Devil himself could not have dreamed up a better hell than the Magdalene laundry.
We were on our feet literally all day, while mice and rats scuttled around us. When a Maggie died a black cross was placed on her body by the nuns. It's a symbol of the Devil and used to ensure that the deceased went straight to hell. Her body was then wrapped in a sheet and dumped in a mass grave.
When we tried to escape, the nuns, with the help of the police, would hunt us down and take us back. On Sundays we were visited by members of various lay groups, who would lecture us and give us holy medals and cards.
One of these visitors, a man much older than me, singled me out and gave me sweets and cigarettes.
We would sometimes go walking together and one Sunday he led me to a big green shed in the convent grounds. Once we were out of sight he pulled me to the ground, put his hand over my mouth and raped me.
When he had finished I pulled myself from underneath him and ran back to the convent with tears streaming down my face. I told the other girls what had happened and they weren't shocked. One said: "Why do you think they come to visit here?" She warned me not to report it or I would end up back in a mental asylum.
I was so innocent that I had no idea what was happening to me when, months later, my stomach began to swell. I was completely shocked when an older woman said to me: "You are probably having a baby."
A month before my 14th birthday I gave birth to a baby girl, weighing 4lbs 3ozs. Annie was a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed little thing. She was also very sick with a rare bowel condition. Sad though that made me, it at least meant that she would not meet the same fate as other babies born to the Maggies.
They were taken from their mothers, shipped off to America and sold to wealthy couples.
I got to spend three blissful months with my daughter in a mother-and-baby home before being sent back to slave labour in the laundry.
The nuns kept Annie, and I lived for the few weekends I was allowed to go visit her.
Around the time of my 15th birthday my friend Patricia and I managed to escape from the laundry and went on the run for several weeks. Penniless, we were eventually arrested for shoplifting and terrified that we would be returned to the laundry.
It was a huge relief to instead be sent to Dublin's Mountjoy prison. The three months I spent there were the happiest of my young life - a breeze compared to life in a Magdalene laundry. I was fed, clothed, treated like a human being and never beaten. In the years that followed I was back in the control of the nuns, with visits to Annie the only bright points.
Aged 17, after losing my temper through frustration and punching out windows, I was sent to another mental hospital.
There I saw a psychiatrist who was the first person ever to listen to what I had been through.
She kept her promise to have me released from the hospital, and soon afterwards a social worker found me a flat.
Without doubt the most painful time of my life was losing my precious daughter when she was only 10 years old.
Annie died as a result of her bowel condition and it is a loss from which I will never recover.
I've spent the past few years piecing together my past and gaining recognition for everything my friends and I suffered while in the care of the nuns.
Recently Ireland's appalling record of child abuse and the neglect of children in state-run institutions was pushed to the top of the political and media agenda following the broadcast of a documentary series called States Of Fear.
I, like many others, am now fighting for compensation through the Residential Institutions Redress Board, though it will never heal the scars.
At the same time, I am determined to ensure a headstone is erected at the mass grave which became the final resting-place of my fellow Maggies - innocent girls condemned as sinners by the nuns.
The headstones will recount the history of the Magdalene laundries and dignify the memory of all the women who died there.'
When a 'Maggie' died a black cross was placed on her by the nuns