Girl in the Tunnel: My Story of Love and Loss as a Survivor of the Magdalene Laundries


Maureen Sullivan

When Maureen Sullivan was just twelve years old, she was sent to the Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, Co. Wexford. The Girl in the Tunnel is the heart-breaking story of her agonising journey from a violent home to the brutal Magdalene laundry, and her desperate fight for freedom and for justice.


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When Maureen Sullivan was just twelve years old, she confided in her teacher that she was being physically and sexually abused by her stepfather. Never, in her darkest imaginings, could she have dreamt that she would be the one who would face harrowing punishment.

Within twenty-four hours, Maureen was taken from her home and her beloved grandmother, and sent to the Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, Co. Wexford, run by the Order of the Good Shepherd nuns. She was told that she would receive an education there, but instead she was immediately stripped of her meagre possessions and thrown into forced labour, washing clothes and scrubbing floors in inhumane and unrelenting conditions. Not allowed to speak, barely fed, and often going without water, the child was viciously beaten by the nuns for years, and hidden away in an underground tunnel when government inspectors came. No one must see how cruelly the nuns were treating her.

In the heart-breaking Girl in the Tunnel, Maureen bravely recounts her agonising journey from a monstrously violent home to the cold and brutal Magdalene laundry, and her desperate, gruelling fight for freedom and for justice.


1. Marty
2. Granny
3. My Mother
4. Abuse
5. Shay
6. Maureen the Liar
7. The Hospital
8. The Campaign
9. Cowboys and Indians
10. The Chocolate Bar
11. Days Out
12. The Half Crown
13. Sister Cecilia
14. The Indian Doll
15. The Sweet
16. The Priest
17. The Solution
18. The Pencil Case
19. St Mary’s
20. Frances
21. St Aidan’s
22. New Ross
23. The Calendar
24. The Tunnel
25. Penance
26. Nits
27. The Dublin Girl
28. Visitors
29. Trafficked
30. Trafficked Again
31. Womanhood
32. The End of it All

About the Author
Maureen Sullivan grew up in Carlow town. When she was just twelve years old she was placed in the Magdalene Laundry at New Ross, County Wexford, where she was forced to work long hours scrubbing floors and washing clothes, and denied an education. After two years she was transferred to another laundry in Athy, County Kildare and then to a school for blind people in Dublin. After she left the school, she returned to Carlow before moving to England. She is now an advocate for other survivors.

Praise for Girl in the Tunnel 

Girl in the Tunnel … perfectly captures the voice of a small girl, vulnerable, bewildered and crying out for aid. Magdalene laundry testimonies will never make for comfortable reading, but this one is a particularly stark reminder of why the institutions’ poisonous legacy must always be remembered.’ – Andrew Lynch, Sunday Business Post