Report will get 'appropriate response'
The Government will make a “considered and appropriate response” to the McAleese report on the Magdalene laundries, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has told the Dáil.
Ms Lynch, who has long campaigned on the issue, said, “We will try to do this in a way that recognises the full complexities of the issues arising and meets the needs, insofar as we can, of the women who worked there.”
Her party colleague Dominic Hannigan called for “an official State apology to every woman who was sent to the laundries. Anything less is not good enough.” He read testimony from Maisy Kay, a woman who spent time in a laundry and on one occasion “got a fist to the face” from a nun.
Both were speaking during the debate on Fianna Fáil’s Private Members’ motion calling for an immediate and unqualified apology to the women who spent time in the Magdalene laundries, and a comprehensive redress scheme.
Ms Lynch described the motion as hypocritical and galling. She said that for 14 years in government Fianna Fáil chose to “completely neglect the tragedy of the Magdalene laundries. The Irish Women Survivors Support Network and others were stone-walled and fobbed off for years when all they wanted was recognition and an acknowledgment of the wrong done to them.”
She reiterated that “there is absolutely no hesitation on the part of the Government in making a considered and appropriate response to this report”.
Ms Lynch highlighted that just over 60 per cent of the 10,000 women spent less than a year in the laundry and said the report clearly illustrated the stigma attached to time in the laundry “derives from misconceptions relating to how women came to be in the laundries”.
Labour TD Eamonn Maloney said Fianna Fáil had done itself a disservice by “prostituting the issue this evening to get some gain out of wrongfooting the Government”. He accused Fianna Fáil of turning its back on the women.
Mr Maloney said the laundries “were more accurately described as prisons ... because these people weren’t paid and these people could not leave at their own will”.
“We are looking at Irish female slavery in this Republic,” he said, adding that the laundries “made money ... lots of money” because some of the women in the laundries worked in the accounts section and knew about it.
Moving the Fianna Fáil motion, Dara Calleary said the Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into giving a full apology for wrongs inflicted.
Mr Calleary said the Taoiseach’s statement after the publication of the McAleese report was amateur, heartless and unfair and as a result the physical incarceration of these women continued mentally.
The Dáil should stand up to the faceless people behind the Government’s response and demand that the women be allowed to begin their journey to personal, mental and physical redemption.
He said the State’s response needed to include healthcare provisions, social protection, pensions and redress.
“And most importantly of all the State, the Government, every one of us need to say one word, sorry,” said Mr Calleary.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the treatment of the women was “illegal, not just wrong and awful and heartbreaking’’.
“The law was breached, the women were brutalised,” Ms McDonald added.