'Taoiseach: that is not an apology'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s response to the Magdalene laundries’ report is a cop-out and is insufficient, a group of survivors has said.
Maureen Sullivan, a member of Magdalene Survivors Together who was put in a laundry in New Ross at the age of 12, said she wanted a “proper apology”.
Speaking in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said: “To those residents who went into the Magdalene laundries from a variety of ways, 26 per cent from State involvement, I’m sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment.”
Ms Sullivan said Mr Kenny is “Taoiseach of the Irish people and that is not an apology”.
The report showed there was still “denial” about profits the religious congregations made from the unpaid labour, she added. Money was made from the laundry work as well as the production of rosary beads, Aran sweaters and Communion dresses which were then sold.
“Those comments from Enda Kenny are a complete and utter cop-out,” said another member of the group, Steven O’Riordan.
The group is looking for the State to issue a full apology and pay back wages and pensions to women who worked in the laundries, he said. It also wanted the religious congregations to pay compensation. The group has considered legal action against the State and Catholic Church but would prefer the “State to do the right thing”.
The report stated that 10,150 women and girls were put into Magdalene laundries and this was a “far less significant figure than what we imagined originally, which was 30,000”, said Mr O’Riordan. But there were also 11,000 women about whom insufficient information exists to be included in the laundries’ registers, he added.
While the report noted only some cases of physical abuse, it revealed widespread psychological abuse which affected women for the rest of their lives, he said. The report was “comprehensive” and “damning” and it was “not only an embarrassment for the Government and the church but the whole of Irish society.
“For the first time in the history of the Magdalene institutions we have a comprehensive report which shows the true extent of the State’s role with regard to these asylums.”
‘I just wanted to die’
Mary Smith was placed in a laundry in Cork when she was 16. She called on the Government to acknowledge the damage that was done to women in the laundries. “I wouldn’t eatfor three weeks. I just wanted to die,” she said.
Another survivor, Marina Gambold, said, “an apology is worth a million dollars to me”.