Taoiseach makes historic apology to Magdalenes

Magdalene women on their way into the Dail  to sit in the public gallery for the debate on the McAleese Magdalene report and an apology from Enda Kenny on behalf of the State. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Magdalene women on their way into the Dail to sit in the public gallery for the debate on the McAleese Magdalene report and an apology from Enda Kenny on behalf of the State. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 00:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has apologised to the women who spent time in the Magdalene laundries.

In an emotional speech, which was greeted by loud applause, Mr Kenny said: "This is a national shame for which I say again I am deeply sorry and offer my full and heartfelt apologies."

Opening the Dáil debate tonight on the McAleese report, Mr Kenny said the Magdalene laundries were reserved for what was offensively and judgementally called fallen women.

The women, he added, were wholly blameless.

He added: "I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of this State, the Government and our citizens, deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, for any stigma they suffered as a result of the time they spent in the Magdalene laundry."

Mr Kenny said the women deserved more than a formal apology.

He said the Government had asked the president of the Law Reform Commission, Judge John Quirke, to undertake a three-month review and make recommendations about the criteria that should be applied in assessing the help the Government could provide in the area of payments and other supports, including medical cards, psychological and counselling services and other welfare needs.

The terms of reference for Judge Quirke were published this evening following Mr Kenny's speech.

When Judge Quirke has reported, a fund will be established to assist the women based on his recommendations.

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