Republic of Shame is a harrowing read about Ireland’s ‘fallen women’

The weekend is just within reach and there is a giant pile of books on my desk waiting to be read. July has been a phenomenal month for us bookworms, but I must admit I do feel quite overwhelmed by the number of incredible reads that were published over the past few weeks. However, there is one title that has stuck out to me and that is Republic of Shame by Caelainn Hogan.

The Dublin-born journalist has put together a necessary read about how Ireland punished ‘fallen women’ and their children. It is intense, moving and it is bound to leave you feeling angry, hurt and moved beyond belief.

Republic of Shame is Hogan’s first book but she writes with such care and sensitivity that pulls the reader in and makes them feel safe, despite the distressing tales within the pages.

Until alarmingly recently, the Catholic Church, acting in concert with the Irish state, operated a network of institutions for the concealment, punishment and exploitation of ‘fallen women’. 

In the Magdalene laundries, girls and women were incarcerated and condemned to servitude. And in the mother-and-baby homes, women who had become pregnant out of wedlock were hidden from view, and in most cases their babies were adopted – sometimes illegally. Mortality rates in these institutions were shockingly high, and the discovery of a mass infant grave at the mother-and-baby home in Tuam made news all over the world. 

The Irish state has commissioned investigations. But the workings of the institutions and of the culture that underpinned it – a shame-industrial complex – have long been cloaked in secrecy and silence. For countless people, a search for answers continues. 

Caelainn Hogan has been talking to the survivors of the institutions, to members of the religious orders that ran them, and to priests and bishops. She has visited the sites of the institutions, and studied Church and state documents that have much to reveal about how they operated. 

Republic of Shame is the one book you should pick up this weekend. It is a gripping, moving book that will stick with you long after the final chapter.

I cannot wait to start reading it and urge you to do the same. Order your copy hereRepublic of Shame by Caelainn Hogan is published by Penguin.