Many entered laundries voluntarily, says Shatter
A significant number of people went in to Magdalene laundries of their own volition, presumably because they felt life would be better for them there, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.
There were dangers in judging the behaviour of predecessors by today’s standards but “I think we are still entitled to be shocked that some foster parents left children in the laundries when their foster payments stopped” and that a substantial number went in voluntarily.
He was speaking during a debate on a Fianna Fáil motion calling for an immediate and unqualified apology and a dedicated unit to address a redress scheme for the women.
The Government defeated the Fianna Fáil motion by 84 votes to 46.
Anne Ferris (Labour) said a meaningful apology was owed to the women by the congregations and the State. They had spent part or most of their lives caught in the atmosphere of a laundry described as “cold, with a rigid and uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer, with many instances of verbal censure, scolding or even humiliating put-downs’’.
Clare Daly (Ind) said the women involved were ostracised, taken from society and arbitrarily detained and treated as outcasts.
Catherine Murphy (Ind) said she could not believe there was no physical abuse. A woman who worked in the laundry as a paid hand had witnessed the physical abuse, the uncalled-for beatings.
Finian McGrath (Ind) said there could be no excuse that it was a different era. “It was wrong and an injustice when it happens can never be stood over.’’
Michelle Mulherin (FG) said the failure to face up to and deal with dark issues and episodes could not be levelled at the Government. “Government action on the Cloyne report represents a milestone in our history, marking a departure from the State covering up or making excuses for institutions which abused their positions of trust and authority towards protection for the vulnerable and restitution for those abused.’’
Arthur Spring (Lab) said the report would lead to justice for people who were underprivileged and put into pigeon holes in society because of their circumstances.
Charlie McConalogue (FF) said he believed the testimony of the women. The response from the Government to the report was “not the Taoiseach’s finest moment’’.