Group rejects Taoiseach's 'shameful' apology
From left: Mari Steed, Claire McGettrick, Katherine O'Donnell and Maeve O'Rourke in Dublin yesterday. photograph: dara mac dónaill
Advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes rejected the Taoiseach’s apology following a report on State involvement in the Magdalene laundries, with one daughter of a former Magdalene worker describing the reaction as “absolutely shameful”.
Mari Steed, whose mother Josie spent a decade in Sunday’s Well, Cork, in the 1940s and 1950s from the age of 14, said: “I think that was Kenny saying I am personally sorry. That’s not the same as the State admitting culpability and saying we’re sorry as a nation that we failed you.If the State failed to make sure that these women’s rights were protected, then that’s absolute and utter and abject failure on the Government’s part.”
Katherine O’Donnell, the head of Women’s Studies at UCD, said there were good nuns within the system, but “the system itself was punitive, harsh, severe . . . and utterly eroded these women’s basic rights”.
Figure revised upwards
She said the figure of 10,012 women in the report “needs to be significantly revised upwards”, as two laundries were not reflected in this figure, which she said could be as high as 15,000. “There is an . . . international spotlight on Ireland and the news today is absolute that there is irrefutable evidence, to quote Alan Shatter, of State involvement in the Magdalene laundry system, and the State has refused to apologise, that’s the story that’s going out,” Ms O’Donnell said.
At a press conference in Dublin yesterday, the organisation’s press officer Claire McGettrick said: “It has been proven by Martin McAleese today that the State colluded on a statutory basis with this, and yet Enda Kenny still refuses to apologise to these women and provide compensation for lost wages and pensions.
“If these politicians had honoured what they said in opposition . . . if they were people of honour they would have apologised immediately,” she said.
‘Cynical and cruel’
“Dragging out this process for really vulnerable women . . . it’s cynical, it’s cruel, it’s prolonging the torture and it’s simply not good enough.”
Sally Mulready, a member of the Irish Council of State who has campaigned on behalf of the Magdalene women through the UK-based Irish Women’s Survivors Network, said yesterday was “a big day, it’s a long day and we’ve waited a long time for this.
“We want fast, fair and just settlement.”