When I was a small boy I went to a National School in Galway that was one of those old (1916) single-story grey stone buildings that was split internally into three rooms. Each room contained two or three rows of desks, each of which was a class (as in year 4, year 5, etc.).

It was my second school. I’d started with the Sisters of Mercy nuns as my first teachers. I was there for a few years so I joined at the middle end of the age range. I’ve read it somewhere that the sisters of mercy had no mercy, and the sisters of charity had no charity. They got that right.

The building had no inside toilets – they were in a shed out in the yard. There was an open fireplace and it wasn’t quite that we had to bring a sod of turf with us each day in cold weather, but you felt and knew that this had been a recent practice.

One year it was unusually cold with a snow fall and the toilets were frozen over. They had no choice but to send us home. Getting home meant a bus journey and for reasons I can’t explain me and my friend had spent the penny or two that it would cost to take the bus. Probably on sweets. So we decided to call on his father who was working on the other side of town. He had a car and would give us a lift home. Not a great plan in retrospect but there you have it.

We trudged across town. I especially remember that my feet were freezing. We trudged up a hill that took you past the Magdalen Laundry building, up towards another old school – a Grammar School from 1807 where “none are to be admitted schoolmasters of the said Schools but such as are the Protestant religion”.

We achieved our redemption at the top of the hill. Cold and with a strong rebuke ringing in our ears, we got taken home.

I was thinking of that day this week because of the report out about the horrors inflicted by the aforementioned Sisters of  Mercy on the unfortunate “fallen women” that they incarcerated in their hell-hole Magdalen Laundries in various Irish towns. No redemption for those poor women that day, or any other day till they closed those buildings down.

There’s controversy now because the Irish Government didn’t apologize when the report came out for its complicit role in the whole affair. They dumped people there without trial or appeal. They turned a blind eye to working conditions and their own workplace legislation. The police rounded up anyone who escaped and took them back, like something out of the antebellum South. They buried them in mass graves when they died.

But it’s OK – the surviving nuns at the Sisters of Mercy convent have extended an invite this week to any ex-inmates to come in and talk about it.

I say fuck your State Apology anyway. Fuck your coffee morning reconciliation too. Those women were made to work for nothing while the nuns collected big revenues from the laundry services they provided with the slave labour.

There’s no need for anger. Just take the assets of the religious orders, make a list of the people owed money for their labour (including pensions etc) and make retribution. There won’t be much left of the prime real estate when all that is done. But there will be just enough for a pleasant-enough small house somewhere that will comfortably serve the old nuns in their final years. There they can think on the past and find their redemption.