TWO OF the religious congregations which ran Magdalene laundries in the State set up and continue to run the Dublin-based Ruhama agency, which is funded by the State and works “with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation”.
According to its website, the agency receives funding from the Department of Health and the Department of Justice.
Ruhama, which means “renewed life” in Hebrew, is described as “a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, both of which had a long history of involvement with marginalised women, including those involved in prostitution”.
Both congregations refused to meet Justice for Magdalenes, a support group for women who had been in the laundries, including those run by the Good Shepherd Sisters at Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross, and those run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity at High Park in Drumcondra and Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin.
In a letter to Justice for Magdalenes spokesman Prof James Smith on June 23rd last year, Sr Sheila Murphy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity said she did “not wish to have, nor do I see any purpose in having, a meeting with you at this time”.
In an e-mail of June 17th last year, Sr Bernie McNally of the Good Shepherd Sisters told Prof Smith she would not be able to engage in a meeting with him and “will not be able to respond further”.
Top of the list of Ruhama’s board of directors are Sr Sheila Murphy and Sr Bernadette McNally.
As reported in The Irish Times, figures disclosed to Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly revealed that the Good Shepherd Sisters have received more than €14.4 million from the Health Service Executive since 2006.
No figures were disclosed for what sums the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity received over that period, or for what either order received from the Department of Justice.
Despite selling off extensive properties in Waterford, Cork and Limerick, the Good Shepherd Sisters said, following publication of the Ryan report in 2009, that they had no resources to contribute to the costs of redress for people who had been abused as children in institutions which they had also run.