BBC thriller The Woman in the Wall explores the legacy of one of Ireland’s most shocking scandals – the institutions known as The Magdalene Laundries, where women were sent when they fell afoul of the repressive moral codes of their times.


The drama stars Ruth Wilson as Lorna Brady, a woman suffering severe trauma as a result of the time she spent in a Magdalene laundry when she was younger.

She suffers from bouts of sleepwalking as a result, and the show kicks off with her waking up to a dead body in her house, with no memory of how it got there.

The show is penned by Joe Murtagh who, speaking at a press Q&A about the series, said he was compelled to write about the scandal out of “peak frustration of people still not knowing about it”.

"I had this idea about 10 years ago, I was at film school, and I saw The Magdalene Sisters and I knew nothing about the laundries. That was my introduction. And I've since gone on to learn that for people outside of Ireland, The Magdalene Sisters tends to be their introduction to the Magdalene Laundries, that or Philomena."

young Lorna sat in front of a washing machine, wearing an apron, looking glum,
Abby Fitz as young Lorna in The Woman in the Wall. Motive Pictures/Chris Barr

Murtagh continued: "Basically, its people are always introduced to them through TV, film, theatre, and that interested me. So I watched it and I looked into it and I was just absolutely horrified. I had this really uneasy feeling throughout watching it, has this actually happened to people? And then reading into it like Jesus Christ? Yes, it has, all the way up to 1996 when the last laundry closed, and 1998 when the last mother baby home closed. All sorts of institutions spread around the country.

"So it was an eye opening experience realising how this horrific thing had happened. But the thing that was more horrifying was to realise that I hadn't known about this, and every single person that I mentioned this to had never heard of this, and that's still true today outside of Ireland."

Speaking about the Tuam scandal, which saw the discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of babies and children at a former Catholic care home in Ireland, Murtagh continued: "And in that interim a lot of other stuff came out, the Tuam scandal that came out in 2012, and then everything that has been done or rather not done about that since then. Tuam is a mass grave in County Galway and a former mother and baby home that is thought to contain the remains of 798 children, and it's only been partially excavated.

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"And now they're even saying that there might not even be that many children down there, that a lot of the death certificates for these children might have been falsified to cover up– it's horrific when you read into it."

The Woman in the Wall is coming to BBC One and iPlayer this August. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.

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