UK Magdalenes back move to delay full State apology

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives for a meeting at the Irish Embassy in London with UK based women who spent time in the Magdalene laundries before leaving Ireland. Photograph: Neil Hall.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives for a meeting at the Irish Embassy in London with UK based women who spent time in the Magdalene laundries before leaving Ireland. Photograph: Neil Hall.


Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision not to apologise immediately for the State’s involvement in the Magdalene Laundries has been supported by British-based survivors, following a meeting in London today.

Mr Kenny, along with the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, heard the personal stories of 15 of the women during a two hour meeting at the Irish Embassy this afternoon.

Later, Cllr Sally Mulready, who runs a support group for some of the women in Britain, said: “There was a consensus that the Taoiseach was quite wise not to have done so until he had read the report and before next week’s Dáil debate.”

One of the women, Mary O’Connor, now aged 82, defended Mr Kenny, who was sharply criticised in the wake of the publication of the report into the history of the laundries by former senator Martin McAleese.

“I don’t that he should have taken that criticism. He was very genuine about this,” she said, adding that she had written to four Taoisigh about her time in one of the laundries, Hyde Park without success.

“He was the one who has brought this out. He was the one who got Martin McAleese to bring out the report,” said Ms O’Connor, who entered the laundry when she was 17 and did not leave for fourteen years.

The women made clear that a full apology is expected when he speaks in the Dáil next week, along with clear details about payment for years of unpaid labour, along with compensation and funding for welfare services.

However, compensation will not end the years of pain, Bedfordshire-based Mary Currington made clear: “I don’t think that there will ever be closure. We had our young lives taken from us.”

Marina Permaul, who was held in the Forster Street, Galway Magdalene, acknowledged that Mr Kenny’s first public declaration on the McAleese report had "been a bit on the weak side, but, again, he had never heard our stories".

During the meeting, each of the women, who were accompanied by Cllr Mulready and Phyllis Murphy, who also runs the British survivors’ network, recounted their personal histories at length to Mr Kenny and his ministers.

“He said he was going to do as much as he can, but he did not make any promises. But he was very understanding and we look forward to what he will say next week,” said Mrs Currington.

Meanwhile, the Justice for Magdalenes group has published an edited copy of the submission it made to the McAleese inquiry, which found that there was ‘significant’ and ‘direct’ involvement by the State in the laundries.

The group has called on the public to ‘stand in solidarity with survivors’ and their families by joining in a candle-lit vigil to take place outside Dáil Éireann on on Tuesday at 5pm.

In a carefully-phrased criticism of the McAleese report, the group said that "for reasons that are as yet unspecified, not a single line of the written testimony" was included in the report, when it recounted the living and working conditions faced by the women.

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