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Máiréad Enright

This chapter thinks about the Magdalene survivor as an overlooked subject of contract law. It examines two contractual artefacts: the recent waiver agreement signed by participants in the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme and the state’s past contracts with religious orders who ran the laundries. Holding both contracts together demonstrates these women’s ‘double’ legal subjectivity. At different times in their lives, contract made these women alternate between person and ‘thing’. In the past, they were third parties to contracts between religious orders and state agencies: agreements for the bulk distribution of women’s unpaid labour, which did not recognise those women as persons at all. More recently, women were asked to sign waiver agreements, promising not to sue religious orders or the state, as a condition for receiving financial redress. The waiver agreement, in some ways, echoes the older laundry contracts, albeit the waiver is signed by the woman herself. By recognising survivors of the laundries as contractual subjects, and contract as an aspect of the law used to discipline and control them, we get closer to overlooked aspects of the structural violence they endured. More than that, we can trace the troubling resonances of these contractual structures in contemporary Irish law.

in Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries