Over 700 inquire about Magdalene fund
More than 700 women have contacted the Department of Justice about eligibility for supports and the fund to be established for survivors of the Magdalene laundries, the Minister for Justice has said.
Alan Shatter also told the Dáil Minister of State Kathleen Lynch and he would shortly meet the four religious congregations involved, for talks about the McAleese report.
Their discussions would include the need to access the laundries’ records again to assist with the operations of the scheme that will be established for the women, he said. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to address the Magdalene laundries’ issue “as quickly, effectively and compassionately as possible. That is the least we can do for the women who were admitted to and worked in the laundries.”
Responding to the Dáil debate on the Magdalene laundries, held over several days, Mr Shatter said the process whereby women contacted the department “may also give some indication of the numbers who have an interest in such a fund or in receiving assistance”.
The women who spent time in the laundries have been asked to consider the nature and location of a memorial for the story of the laundries and Mr Shatter and the Minister of State had contacted the representative groups about this.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton reminded the House there were “many loud and clear signals or red flags” about the laundries. She said in 1970, over 40 years ago, District Justice Eileen Kennedy in a report described as a “haphazard system”, the issue of how girls were admitted to convents and laundries. The judge said its “legal validity was doubtful” and the girls, being unaware of their rights, “could remain in the laundries for long periods and become in the process unfit for re-emergence into society”. Ms Burton said “it is difficult to know what more evidence the State needed this was wrong”.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said they had to remember the deceased women who were not in the Dáil “to see justice being served for them. They were not here to hear the leader of the country apologise on behalf of the State. It is sad to think that those people went to their graves without hearing that..”
Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the religious orders were “glaringly absent” from the apology.
The Donegal North-East TD said “too many sets of financial records from the laundries have gone missing. There must be further investigations into this, and prosecutions must be initiated where appropriate.” He said some of the women “never got out and were buried in unmarked graves because their lives were not worth as much as an individual headstone to the nuns or the State”.
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins hit out at the “total moral paradox in the attitude of the political establishment”.
He said the Government found it safe to criticise predecessors for “the cruelty they imposed on those who were poor and powerless” yet it then promoted the “cruel austerity policies it pushed through in response to the crisis of the present day”.