Women 'thrilled and moved' by Taoiseach's apology
Magdalene women on their way into the Dáil for the debate on the McAleese report. photograph: alan betson
Women who spent time in Magdalene laundries say they were “thrilled and moved” by the “extraordinary” apology made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night.
In an address to the Dáil, Mr Kenny said the women sent to 10 laundries in the Republic between 1922 and 1996 – up to 60 of whom filled the public gallery – had “taken this country’s terrible secret and made it your own”.
“From this moment you need carry it no more because we take it back,” he said.
Speaking outside the gates of Leinster House, Magdalene Survivors Together (MST) member Maureen O’Sullivan said the Taoiseach’s words were “fantastic”.
“He didn’t hold back on anything. He really did us proud. Now we can get on with our lives, now that we have an apology and they’ve taken responsibility. It’s just fantastic.
“We can start a new chapter in our lives. It’s been the best day ever. I have to give the man credit; we never expected a sorry like that.”
Ms O’Sullivan, who was sent to a laundry as a schoolgirl, said the women could now start a new chapter in their lives.
“It’s the apology that was so important for the stigma that was attached to us innocent girls. We didn’t commit any crimes, we were innocent. I was a 12-year-old child taken from my school, all my rights taken from me.”
‘I’m happy now’
Fellow Magdalene Marina Gambold praised the Taoiseach. “I’ve never heard anything like it. Everybody in Ireland should be proud of our Taoiseach. He’s a wonderful man. I knew that he would do it. I’m happy now,” she said.
“I’ve no stigma attached to me no more.”
MST campaigner Steven O’Riordan said it was significant the Taoiseach had accepted his group’s recommendation that training facilities at Summerhill and Stanhope Street be recognised as laundries.
Justice for Magdalenes spokeswoman Katherine O’Donnell said women she represented were “very moved and very thrilled” by the apology.
She said the gallery was packed with former Magdalene women, who had entered the Dáil through side doors, most of whom had not gone public until now. She said they were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
The Taoiseach’s apology “was warmly welcomed by the women and there were sobs to be heard everywhere”.
While the Taoiseach had mentioned payments and supports, she said Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had “signalled clearly” that the fund would also provide “compensation for human rights abuses and that the congregations would be asked to contribute”.
She said it was important now that Mr Justice Quirke get the statutory instrument needed to ensure his independence, that he be properly resourced and that he have an appeals system that is independent to him.
Campaigner Sally Mulready, who flew from London for the speech along with three Magdalenes from the London-based Irish Women’s Survivors’ Network, described the speech as “extraordinary”.
“It is the most incredible speech I’ve heard from a Taoiseach . . . in my lifetime.”
Ms Mulready, who has campaigned on the issue since 1993, said the women she represented were “very pleased”.
“One woman told me she felt whole again. The scale of the apology has had a really powerful effect on them.”