Accounting at the Donnybrook Magdelene Laundry

Brid Murphy, Martin Quinn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Until recently, Irish legislation on the accounting of charitable organizations, including religious ones, was scarce. Yet, all organizations – including not-for-profits and charities – are required to maintain accounting records to comply with tax law if they trade, in addition to ensuring that appropriate financial information is available to assist in decision-making. Canon Law, that is the ecclesiastical set of laws, ordinances and regulations which govern the Catholic Church, also includes provisions on how religious organizations should be administered. These include the rendering of an account of the financial administration of each religious institute to the Vatican. Some financial records of Donnybrook Magdalene Laundry (DML) have survived from the 1960s to the 1990s, with broken periods. During this time, DML was considered a religious entity and was not required to publish financial information, file accounts with a regulator of charities or otherwise publicly disclose financial data. DML was, however, subject to Canon Law and laws which required accounts be held to record the activities of a trade. The available financial records of the Laundry provide evidence of detailed record-keeping throughout this period, supporting its operation as a trade.These records present some factual insights into the financial state of DML and the financial procedures followed and on the cost structure of the operation. Through some reconstructive efforts, this chapter reveals that DML generated a good financial surplus annually. However, this surplus excludes an obvious cost omission in the cost structure – the labour cost of the women working there.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Dublin Magdalene Laundry: Donnybrook and Church-State power in Ireland
EditorsMark Coen, Katherine O'Donnell, Maeve O'Rourke
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
ISBN (Electronic)9781350279087, 9781350279070
ISBN (Print)9781350279056, 9781350279049
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2023


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