Magdalene survivors want 'proper apology'

Magdalene survivors want 'proper apology'

Survivors of the Magdalene laundries say the Irish Government didn't go far enough after it acknowledged its role in the incarceration of thousands of women between 1922 and 1996.

A report into the Catholic work houses was published on Tuesday, detailing a physically demanding environment, with strict discipline and prayer regime. It found no allegations of sexual abuse by nuns, although verbal and psychological abuse was common.

The youngest girl admitted to one of the institutions was just nine years old, while the eldest was 89.

Records say that 10,012 women spent time in Magdalene laundries across the country during the 74 year period, although survivors argue the number would have been much higher if undisclosed records had been counted.

The 18-month long inquiry also found 2,124 of those detained were sent by the authorities.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his sympathies with survivors and the families of those who have died.

He apologised for the stigma and conditions the women experienced.

"To those residents who went into the Magdalene laundries from a variety of ways, 26% from state involvement, I'm sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment," he said on Tuesday.

But survivors say they want a full state apology and compensation.

Maureen Sullivan, of Magdalene Survivors Together, said: "That is not an apology."

He is the Taoiseach of our country, he is the Taoiseach of the Irish people, and that is not a proper apology.

Maureen Sullivan

The inquiry committee, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese who has since resigned from politics, identified five areas where there was direct state involvement in the detention of women in laundries run by nuns.

They were detained by courts, gardaí, transferred by industrial or reform schools, rejected by foster families, orphaned, abused children, mentally or physically disabled, homeless teenagers or simply poor.

Inspectors, known as "the suits" by the women, routinely checked conditions complied with rules for factories.

Government paid welfare to certain women in laundries, along with payments for services.

Women were also enabled to leave laundries if they moved to other state-run institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, county and city homes and in the company of police, probation, court or prison officers.

The state also had a role in registering the death of a woman in a laundry.

Over the years, thousands of single mothers and other women were put to work in detention, mostly in the industrial for-profit laundries run by nuns from four religious congregations. Each woman had her Christian name changed, her surname unused and most have since died.

Religious orders the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity ran laundries at Drumcondra and Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dun Laoghaire, the Religious Sisters of Charity in Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross.

Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin's north inner city was the last laundry to close in 1996.

The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was prompted by a report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture in June 2011.

The Dáil is to debate the full findings of the report later this month.


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