Who should say sorry for Magdalenes?
Emotional moment: Magdalene victim Gabrielle O'Gorman after Enda Kenny's apology. photograph: clodagh kilcoyne
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In the Dáil on Tuesday Taoiseach Enda Kenny apologised to victims of the Magdalene laundries. Vincent Browne wrote in Wednesday’s Irish Times that it was not just the State that should apologise.
“It wasn’t as though the existence of these laundries was a secret . . . Class distinction followed the nuns and the ‘children’ from the outside society into the asylum laundries . . . It is not just the State that owes thousands of women subjected to such cruelty, loneliness and neglect an apology. Irish society at large owes an apology, but then it is not just to these women to whom Irish society owes apologies, and it is not only for past injustices and humiliations.”
Here are some of your online comments.
The laundries were in the heart of towns and cities, and, as far as I can tell, not just the army and hotels but private individuals and private households used their services. As a child I remember large hampers being filled every Monday with sheets and shirts, to be collected and taken to the local laundry – which was not a Magdalene, I must stress, but I am sure households also used the Magdalenes. Commercial twin tubs were not in common use until the 1960s; before then people used old-fashioned machines, with a hand wringer. Perhaps the enslavement of women, and subsequent semi- emancipation, can be linked to technological change, and should not be viewed in isolation from other trends. lyndakennedy
I’ve just heard a bit of “an apology” from one of the religious orders on radio. Another nonapology by saying “they regret” and referring to laundries as “refuges”. My dictionary describes “refuge” as “a place which gives protection or shelter from danger, trouble, unhappiness”. Still unable to admit the realities. dianesweets
Too many of us have been more than willing to let the State and religious institutions make apologies or offer compensation. We have allowed ourselves to believe this problem was not ours. As Mr Browne said, the laundries were not a secret, and the women and girls incarcerated in them were occasionally visible and used by society as a reminder of what can happen to children who stray off the “straight and narrow”. They were disdained and ridiculed. Time to take a look at ourselves and come to terms with what was done in the names of Catholic Ireland and of us all. Knowing about it and doing nothing is nearly as bad. BrendanMullen
Not all of this society was complicit in incarcerating, enslaving and putting these women into indentured labour. But I was – vicariously. I worked in a hospital where our white coats and shirts were washed by these weary, gnarled hands. The nuns who ran the hospital had an “arrangement” with the laundry in Tralee, where we could bring our washing for a “small consideration”. I don’t know what happened to the “small consideration”, and I did not then appreciate how complicit we were in this odious regime of utter tyranny, and for my part I am truly sorry. It took the McAleese report to convince me that I was so proximal to the sin. GeorgeUnthank
It made for very uncomfortable viewing last night to see Enda’s crocodile tears, knowing that he is making great political capital out of the plight of the Magdalenes, and then to see their delight because they believe that the apology is sincere.
What I see is a government in trouble, and, mindful of the criticism that followed Bertie Ahern and the deal he made with the church, Enda was determined that he would end the seeping wound that is Irish history. But the attacks on the poor are still being perpetuated by his government, with the Labour Party aiding these attacks.
The richest people in this country, who wreaked economic devastation on it, are being protected and promoted by this Government’s actions, and the poorest and most vulnerable are paying the price.
Nothing has changed, and nothing will change. Parents will still happily wave their children off on planes to protect what they have got, and wives will be waving off husbands to work abroad and destroy family life. Anything rather than face the fact that we are being kicked in the face and taking it.
Nobody – not feminists, trade unions or farmers’ wives – took up the cause of the Maggies. They did it themselves, with help from rare angels like Mary Raftery. raggagirly