Irish PM apologises to Magdalene laundries victims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 2:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 4:42am


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Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny apologised on Tuesday to thousands of women who suffered in appalling conditions in church-run laundries in Ireland, after the publication of a report investigating state involvement.

More than 10,000 women were sent to the Magdalene laundries between 1922 and 1996 where they worked for no pay while the religious orders ran the laundries as commercial bodies.

They were sent to the institutions if they were suspected of being “fallen women”, including those who fell pregnant outside marriage or those who were branded promiscuous or flirtatious in a predominately Roman Catholic country.

“To those residents who went into the Magdalene Laundries through a variety of ways, 26 per cent of them from state involvement or state intervention: I’m sorry for those people that lived in that kind of environment,” Kenny told parliament.

To those residents who went into the Magdalene Laundries through a variety of ways ... I’m sorry for those people that lived in that kind of environment

The probe chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, the husband of former Irish president Mary McAleese, was launched in July 2011 “to establish the facts of state involvement with the Magdalene Laundries, to clarify any State interaction, and to produce a narrative detailing such interaction.”

Four religious communities ran the laundries: the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity.

While Kenny expressed his sympathy with survivors, he stopped short of the full apology that survivors’ groups have demanded.

“I’m sorry that this release of pressure and understanding of so many of these women was not done before this because they were branded as being the fallen women as they often were referred to in this state,” he said.

“I want to see that those women who are still with us, anywhere between 800 and 1,000, that we shall see that the state provides for them the very best of facilities and supports,” Kenny added.

Advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes has called on the government to establish a transparent and non-adversarial compensation process including the provision of pensions, lost wages, health and housing services, as well as redress, that is open to all survivors.

“Magdalene survivors have waited too long for justice and this should not be now burdened with either a complicated legal process or a closed-door policy of compensation,” a spokeswoman said.