Magdalene survivors call for State apology

Monastery of Our Lady of Charity, Dublin

The Taoiseach is expected to apologise on behalf of the State to the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries for the role it played in placing women in the institutions.

Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore met with members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group yesterday, to discuss an official State apology for the survivors.

The women’s demands came after a report was published by Martin McAleese at the beginning of last week.

The report found that the State was responsible for the placement of 26% of the women who entered the Magdalene Laundries.

According to the findings, women were referred to the institutions for reasons including rejection by foster parents, girls orphaned or in abusive homes, women with mental or physical disabilities and poor and homeless women.

Before the report came out, previous governments denied any involvement with the Magdalene Laundries.

Mr Kenny apologised to the women for how the women had to live, but he stopped short of making a full State apology.

Other groups also demanded that the Government apologise to the survivors.

The Chief Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman said that “A fully independent investigation into the allegations of arbitrary detention, forced labour and ill-treatment that took place in the Magdalene laundries must be set up as soon as possible. Justice must be done. The perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted.”

EU commissioner for human rights Nils Muižnieks called for Ireland to make a State apology through a message on the social networking site, Twitter.

Trade union SIPTU appealed for compensation to be given to the Magdalene Laundry Survivors and their families, for decades of unpaid and sometimes forced labour.

The McAleese report was welcomed by the four congregations that ran the Magdalene Laundries – The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters. The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy said that “It is regrettable that the Magdalene Homes had to exist at all.”

It is estimated that 11,500 women entered the 10 different institutions in the country by the time the last one closed its doors in 1996.

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