Magdalene survivors protest at delays

Women allege they were warned against making public stand at Leinster House

Magdalene Laundry survivors have laid wreaths outside the Dail and at Glasnevin Cemetery to mark the first anniversary of the Taoiseach's apology to them. Video : Bryan O'Brien

 

Wreaths have been laid at the gates of Leinster House and on the graves of undocumented Magdalene women by protesters marking the anniversary of the Taoiseach’s apology on behalf of the State.

They say that redress, recommended by the Quirke report and backed by the Department of Justice and Equality, has not been forthcoming for many Magdalen survivors.

Payments ranging from €11,500 for women who worked in Magdalene laundries for three months or less to €100,000 for those who stayed there for 10 years or longer, have not been made they said. Other forms of redress, including enhanced medical cards and educational support measures, are still awaited by many they said, although some survivors have received payments.

“It is a year today since we got the apology from Enda Kenny. The women were happy about it,” said Maureen Sullivan, one of those protesting outside the Dáil.

“I was 12 years of age when I was put into one of those hell holes,” she added. “Some women have received their money and a lot of them wanted to come today and they were told that if they protested they might not get their compensation. They are frightened to come. A lot of them are elderly and they are not able. They haven’t received their medical cards yet, there is a delay on that. The Government have not stuck by their word. They are not doing things the way they said they would. It’s not happening. Shame on them. It’s a disgrace.”

The Department tonight denied there was any threatening behaviour on its part. “There is no question of any survivor being threatened by the Department of Justice and Equality,” it said in a statement.

“It may be noted that Judge Quirke recommended that, as a pre-condition of receiving benefits under the Scheme, the women concerned should sign a waiver not to take proceedings against the State.

“ Before signing the waiver the women are encouraged to take independent legal advice and the Department of Justice and Equality is facilitating this by providing a contribution of up to €500 plus VAT towards the cost of obtaining legal advice.”

Speaking outside Leinster House today, survivor Mary Smith said she was appalled “that the religious orders had not acknowledged what they did to us”.

“Psychologically they damaged our lives by putting into those places against our wishes.”

Geraldine Coll Cronin said her parents sent her to a training school to be educated “but I was not sent to school, I was sent straight into the laundries as a slave”.

“We were jailed in there,” she added. “We were locked in there from 9 o’clock at night until 6 o’clock in the morning. Our rights were violated. We got no education, we never saw a book. They have got to do something about my education because I have suffered all my life.”

Women in Northern Ireland have also called for the Stormont Executive to meet their calls for an inquiry into abuses at Magdalene laundry-type institutions.

Amnesty International, also marking the anniversary of the Taoiseach’s apology, said: “Victims in Northern Ireland can’t even get an answer from ministers on whether there will be an inquiry”.

Amnesty said women have come forward with claims of “abuse they suffered in Magdalene Laundry-style homes here which may amount to arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, the removal and forced adoption of their babies”.

In a statement Amnesty said: “There is no recourse within the remit of the Northern Ireland institutional abuse inquiry for cases of abuse which took place after the age of 18. A clear ‘justice gap’ has emerged for these women survivors, with no inquiry in place - North or South - into their suffering.”

The Northern Ireland Executive, it said, must consider a separate inquiry mechanism for these cases which could also lead to a state apology and reparation.