At least 20 Magdalene survivors to attend Dáil debate on McAleese report
At least 20 women who had been in Magdalene laundries in the State will attend the Dáil debate this evening on the McAleese report.
They will sit in the public gallery along with family, friends and representatives of advocacy groups which have been fighting their cause.
At 6pm, as that debate begins, the women expect to witness an apology by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on behalf of the people of Ireland for ignoring them and their treatment at the 10 laundries in the Republic between 1922 and 1996.
The women will also hear details of how the State intends to assist them financially and in other ways as restitution.
Meanwhile, outside Leinster House from 5pm, there will be a candle-lit vigil in solidarity with the women and their families. It has been organised by the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group and the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Singer Mary Coughlan will take part and participants are advised “to bring along candles but not organisational banners”.
Three groups that have represented the women – JFM, the London Irish Women Survivors Support Group and Magdalene Survivors Together – agree that a package to assist the women should include pensions, healthcare, counselling, housing services and advice.
They also agree that lump-sum compensation should be paid to them. JFM has proposed a €100,000 sum in addition to a package of services including pensions and lost wages. That figure “reflects that women are forgoing important legal rights to go before the courts”, JFM has said.
Steven O’Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together said they are “extremely confident that the Taoiseach will in some way extend the apology to include St Mary’s Training School, Stanhope Street, Dublin, and St Mary’s Training Centre, Summerhill, Wexford”.
At the weekend Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch said the package provided to the women would be assessed on an individual basis.
“The Government has decided that a person with competence and compassion, and the expertise in this area, will be asked to deal with this issue.
“That person will be asked to put together a framework where women can interact with that person and their team, and we will then look at what needs to be put in place,” she said.
Where the four congregation who ran the laundries were concerned, she said they would be contacted by the State. Those congregations are the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Mercy.
The McAleese report found that the State referred or facilitated the transfer of at least 26.5 per cent of women to the laundries, based on available records. It also found direct State involvement in key areas such as the funding and inspection of the laundries.
More than 10,000 women and girls entered the 10 laundries between 1922 and 1996. Referrals made or facilitated by the State included 2,124 of the 8,025 cases for which reasons are known.
The report also stated that 61 per cent of the women spent less than a year in the laundries and that their average age at time of entry was 24.