Magdalene survivors reject Taoiseach's apology

Enda Kenny: 'Sorry for the stigma'

Survivors of the Magdalene Laundry have quickly rejected the Taoiseach's apology, and demanded a fuller and more frank admission from government and the religious orders involved.

Maureen Sullivan, 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.”

Mary Smyth said she endured inhumane conditions in a laundry, which she said was worse than being in prison.

“I will go to the grave with what happened. It will never ever leave me,” said Ms Smyth, also of the group.

The Justice for Magdalenes group (JFM), which has collected testimony from survivors who attest to severe psychological and physical suffering even in stays of less than a year, has been leading campaigns for an apology.

“It can no longer be claimed that these institutions were private and that ’the vast majority’ of the girls and women entered voluntarily as has been claimed by former minister Batt O’Keeffe and testimony before the UN Committee Against Torture given by Sean Aylward, the former secretary general of the Department of Justice,” the group said.

Survivors have been campaigning for the last 10 years for an apology from state and church and a transparent compensation scheme.

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.

The last laundry, Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city, closed in 1996.

Justice for Magdalenes said it is aware of at least 988 women who are buried in laundry plots in cemeteries across Ireland and therefore must have stayed for life.

The inquiry could only certify 879.

The Taoiseach said action should have been taken before to clear the names and reputations of the women put to work in the institutions.

“That the stigma, that the branding together of the residents, all 10,000 needs to be removed and should have been removed long before this and I’m really sorry that that never happened, and I regret that never happened,” Mr Kenny said.

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

Some reaction on twitter to today's report, and to the Taoiseach's response

Survivors have been campaigning for the last 10 years for an apology from state and church and a transparent compensation scheme.

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.

The last laundry, Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city, closed in 1996.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he regretted that nothing was done to investigate the laundries until July 2011.

“I am sorry that the state did not do more and the Government recognises that the women alive today who are still affected by their time in the laundries deserve the best supports that the state can provide,” he said.

The report said: “None of us can begin to imagine the confusion and fear experienced by these young girls, in many cases little more than children, on entering the laundries – not knowing why they were there, feeling abandoned, wondering whether they had done something wrong, and not knowing when – if ever - they would get out and see their families again.

“It must have particularly distressing for those girls who may have been the victims of abuse in the family, wondering why they were the ones who were excluded or penalised.”

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