The Magdalene Sisters

Couch Potato Pickings

On Channel 4 tonight at 10.05pm

Nora Jane Noone, Eileen Walsh

Imagine how irritable you’d be if you’d spent an unsatisfactory night in your hotel room while on a business trip.  For some reason you’ve been unable to sleep and an unpleasant smell has been troubling you. The following morning you’re glad to get away and can’t wait to get in the taxi when it arrives to take you to the station. The cab driver asks you about your stay, so you’re honest, you tell him about your unpleasant night and lack of sleep.

Imagine how you’d feel if he then revealed to you that the hotel you’d been staying in was built on the site of a former Magdalene asylum?

Nora Jane Noone

I know someone who had this experience. When she got home she checked out the hotel on the internet and verified the taxi driver’s revelation, learning also that the room she’d stayed in was particularly notorious for its bad energy.

Magdalene asylums were Roman Catholic Church-operated institutions designed to rehabilitate “fallen”  women. In Ireland they were known as Magdalene laundries and existed until as recently as 1996.

Geraldine McEwan

Set in 1960s Ireland, tonight’s fact-based film paints an extremely powerful picture of life in one of these places. The main characters include Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff), who was raped by her cousin at a family wedding, thereby bringing shame on her family, Rose (Dorothy Duffy) who has given birth out of wedlock and orphan Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone), who is deemed in ‘moral danger’ simply for being too attractive. The girls interned in the laundry are treated with shocking cruelty by the nuns in charge. It’s incredibly harrowing to watch, but essential viewing.

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