FG's Doherty calls for Government apology to Magdalene survivors

Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 01:00

FINE GAEL backbencher Regina Doherty has called for an immediate Government apology to the survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

Ms Doherty said she wanted to acknowledge the steps the Government had taken and expressed admiration for the interdepartmental committee investigating the matter chaired by Senator Martin McAleese.

“We are certainly not calling for it to stop; we want it speeded up,” she added.

“However, to me it is clear that there is already enough evidence of State involvement in the Magdalene laundries for the Government to issue an apology.”

Ms Doherty was speaking during the resumed debate on the Sinn Féin private members’ motion calling for an apology, pensions and a helpline for survivors.

A Government amendment acknowledging the need for compassion but adding that it would be wrong for the committee to conclude its work without examining additional material before it, was passed by 75 votes 43.

Minister of State for Justice Kathleen Lynch told the Dáil on Tuesday night that the committee’s final report would be published before the end of the year at the latest.

Joe O’Reilly (FG) said that while he commended Sinn Féin for bringing forward the motion, he would appeal to the party to refrain from pre-empting the committee’s final report and accept the Government amendment.

Mr O’Reilly said that following the committee’s report, a truth and reconciliation forum should be established to deal with the Magdalene story. “It is a sordid part of our history,” he added. “We cannot romanticise our past and ignore it.”

Richard Boyd Barrett (People Before Profit) said the abuse and enslavement of women in the Magdalene laundries was “a black stain” on the State’s history.

“It is part of a landscape of shame that includes the industrial schools, the Bethany homes and widespread abuse of children by the church,” he added. “The State is ultimately responsible for this.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said the role of the religious orders and the Catholic Church hierarchy was beyond question in the way they used their “twisted notions of morality” to justify visiting appalling suffering, abuse and exploitation on thousands of women.

“That is well known and beyond question, but it is the State that is ultimately responsible for the welfare of every citizen,” he added.

Clare Daly (ULA) said it was not good enough for the State to say to wait and that the issue would be dealt with this year. “These people have already waited a lifetime,” she added. “Many of them cannot wait any more.”

Ms Daly said the United Nations commission on torture had said it should have been dealt with more than three months ago. “This is an ageing population, they deserve an apology now, they deserve redress now,” she added.