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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 20 December, 2014

‘Margaret died of her slave-related injuries’: a Magdalene daughter shares her story

“Margaret was committed to industrial school in 1954. She was 2 yrs 4 mths old. She left 49 years later in a coffin.”

Image: Virgin Mary depiction via Shutterstock

HER FIRST TWEET simply said: “My mother was Magdalene No. 322. Real name Margaret.”

It was met by a number of reactions, including disbelief that Magdalenes were given numbers.

“Yes,” replied Samantha Long. “I was looking over her records today and thought I’d share that. Awful.”

The Twitter user was talking about her late mother, Margaret Bullen, a woman taken into the Magdalene Laundries system when she was just two years old.

Just days ahead of the publication of a report into the level of State involvement at the now-infamous institutions, Long decided to share her family’s story.

There had been a campaign to get the hashtag #justiceformagdalenesNOW trending on Twitter to raise awareness last night and the Dublin woman’s provocative, powerful and heartbreaking tweets achieved that aim.

With her kind permission, we have reproduced her timeline here:

My mother was Magdalene No. 322. Real name Margaret
Margaret was committed to industrial school in 1954. She was 2 yrs 4 mths old. She left 49 years later in a coffin.
By the age of 5, Margaret was preparing breakfast for 70 children including herself from 4am. Child labour
Margaret was noted in her records as “nervous, timid, fretful, a bed-wetter”. No wonder, she was never toilet trained
Margaret didn’t know where she was from or when her birthday was. We told her when she was 42
At age 13, Margaret had her IQ measured. She was “certified” as fit for work, unfit for education. Labour camps.
Margaret never lived in the outside world, although she lived just off O’Connell Street in our capital city
Margaret didn’t know how to handle money. She had none, and no posessions
Margaret never went on a date, Never had a boyfriend. Never fell in love. But she was impregnated in care
Margaret’s twin daughters were taken from her 7 weeks after she gave birth.When she saw us again we were 23
When we reunited at the Gresham, Margaret was 42. Not that you’d think it

At The Gresham in 1995, Margaret was excited. Not just to meet us,but it was the first time she ever tasted coffee
When I became a mother in 2004, it was the first time I allowed myself to grieve for Margaret’s life unlived, denials
Margaret and my family enjoyed each other for a few years, hard to recreate deep love after so long
Margaret died in July 2003, one day before her 51st birthday. She died of her slave related injuries
Six months after her death, her first grandchild was born. She would have loved her four grandchildren
I hope for justice for Margaret and her friends on Tuesday. Thank you all so much for the support. I think she knows
I am astounded at the reaction to my tweets about Margaret.Impossible to reply to all.Thank you,I am humbled
Goodnight all,finally. Míle buíochas #justiceformagdalenesNOW

Senator Martin McAleese’s report has been sent to Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who will publish it in full on Tuesday afternoon, following a Cabinet meeting.

The long-awaited report has been delayed multiple times since the inter-departmental committee was established in response to a recommendation from the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). That body said it was “gravely concerned” at the failure of the State to protect girls and women who were involuntarily confined between 1922 and 1996.

Advocacy groups have called for a full State apology, as well as a proper, transparent compensation scheme for survivors. About 30,000 women were incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996.

TheJournal.ie has previously told Margaret’s story and that piece can be found here. Samantha Long has also written about both her mothers in this touching blog post.

READ: Magdalenes hope for an apology after a long fight

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