Kenny offers emotional apology to Magdalene women
Kathleen Jannette and her sister Mary McManus, who were in Stanhope Street from 1951-1954, Mary's daughter Pamela Connor and friend Joan Farrelly outside the Dáil after a State apology by Enda Kenny. photograph: alan betson
Taoiseach Enda Kenny apologised “unreservedly” yesterday to those who spent time in the Magdalene laundries and said the Government would establish a fund to assist the women within three months.
Mr Kenny’s voice choked with emotion as he concluded his address to the Dáil when former senator Martin McAleese’s report on the institutions was discussed in a rare non-partisan atmosphere.
“I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, the Government and our citizens, deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene laundry.”
Speaking directly to the women, some of whom sat in the public gallery, Mr Kenny said: “This is a national shame, for which I again say, I am deeply sorry and offer my full and heartfelt apologies.”
However, he said the women deserved more. The president of the Law Reform Commission, Mr Justice John Quirke, would recommend criteria to be applied when assessing what help the Government can provide in terms of “payments” and supports such as medical cards and counselling services.
When Mr Justice Quirke reports within three months, the Government will establish a fund to assist the women based on his recommendations.
TDs in the packed Dail chamber gave a standing ovation to the women in the public gallery when the Taoiseach concluded.
Separately, the Government will fund a memorial “to remind us all of this dark part of our history”, Mr Kenny said.
He said the report showed the State was directly involved in more than a quarter of admissions to the laundries and the Government had decided to include all the Magdalene women in its response regardless of how they were admitted.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the religious orders that ran the laundries should make a “fair contribution, along with the taxpayer”. He said he was proud of the role Labour had played in transforming Ireland from a “subservient State”.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was sorry the women’s suffering had not been addressed earlier. “I am sorry that that did not happen over the last decade when I was a member of government,” he said.
Speaking outside Leinster House, Magdalene Survivors Together member Maureen O’Sullivan said the Taoiseach’s words were “fantastic”.
“He didn’t hold back on anything, he really did us proud. Now we can get on with our lives, now that we have an apology and they’ve taken responsibility. It’s just fantastic.”