Magdalene survivors to meet Kenny

Laundries survivors Marina Gambold and Mary Smyth on the dayt he report was launched.

Women who worked in Magdalene laundries are to meet the Taoiseach today to further press for a state apology for their treatment.

Survivors of laundries have criticised the Government’s response after a report showed a quarter of the 10,000-plus women detained in them were sent by state authorities.

Five women from the Magdalene Survivors Together group are to hold face-to-face discussions with Enda Kenny in Dublin this afternoon to relate their experiences.

The Magdalene inquiry found women were incarcerated by the courts for petty crimes, escapees were returned to laundries by gardaí and foster families sent them to laundries when allowances ran out, while others were sent because they were orphaned, abused, mentally or physically disabled, homeless or poor.

The last of the laundries – which had state and private contracts - closed in 1996, at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city.

The advocacy group requested a meeting with Mr Kenny after the report was published last Wednesday.

Maureen Sullivan, a former worker at the laundries and a member of the group, said: “I never thought this day would come that I would be invited to meet the leader of our country.

“Clearly this man wants to know what he can do for us and it is my intention to make it clear to him what we want. It’s a state apology.”

Mr Kenny was accused of a “cop-out” following the report’s publication when he said he was sorry for the stigma attached to the women, but stopped short of issuing a full apology on behalf of the state.

He has appealed for time to consider the report in full.

A committee which investigated the Magdalenes between 1922 and 1996 identified five areas of direct state involvement in the detention of women in 10 institutions run by nuns.

The 18-month inquiry, headed by outgoing Senator Martin McAleese, husband of former president Mary McAleese, interviewed around 100 surviving women, about 1% of the official total.

Steven O’Riordan, the head of Magdalene Survivors Together, said he was “delighted that the women are being given a chance to be heard”.

“This is a hugely important step for the women,” he added. “We hope that this will ultimately lead to an official apology and we are extremely impressed by the quick response of the Taoiseach’s office to take us up on our invite.

“In the past week we have been fielding calls from his office, trying to map out the best approach to this meeting.

“So far everything has been carefully looked at and all the concerns the women have, have been taken into account.”

Mr O’Riordan noted other campaigners had questioned the motivation for holding such a meeting but he insisted that the members of his group supported the move.

“Nobody has been bullied or rushed in to this,” he said. “In fact the survivors believe it’s fundamental in achieving their ultimate goal for a state apology.”

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