- View Photo Press Association – Magdalene Survivors Together at the press conference in the Handel Hotel, Dublin
Survivors of Catholic run workhouses in Ireland have rejected a government apology for the incarceration of thousands of women in the Magdalene laundries.
As an inquiry found 2,124 of those detained in the institutions were sent there by the state, campaigners accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of a “cop out”.
Records have confirmed that 10,012 women spent time in the laundries between 1922 and 1996. Justice for Magdalenes and Magdalene Survivors Together claimed thousands of women forced into slavery and torture deserved a full state apology and compensation.
Mari Steed, whose mother Josephine Murphy was in a laundry in Sunday’s Well, Cork when she was adopted by a family in America, described the Government’s response as horrifying, saying: “What we witnessed today was absolutely shameful, I can’t recall ever been so angry.”
The committee investigating the state’s involvement in Magdalene laundries identified five areas of direct involvement in the detention of women in 10 institutions run by nuns: women were detained by courts, gardai, transferred by industrial or reform schools, rejected by foster families, orphaned, abused children, mentally or physically disabled, homeless teenagers or simply poor; inspectors, known as “the suits” by the women, routinely checked conditions complied with rules for factories;
The findings also revealed that the Government paid welfare to certain women in laundries, along with payments for services; women were enabled to leave laundries if they moved to other state-run institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, county and city homes or in the company of police, probation, court or prison officers; and deaths were officially registered – the vast majority were recorded, even in the 1920s, but names may have been recorded under a variation.
The Taoiseach’s apology stated: “I’m sorry that this release of pressure and understanding of so many of those women was not done before this, because they were branded as being the fallen women, as they were referred to in this state.”
No compensation package for the surviving women, or relatives, has been finalised but it is understood a redress is being put in place.
Maureen Sullivan, of Magdalene Survivors Together, rejected Mr Kenny’s apology, and demanded an apology from the state and religious orders for taking her education, name and childhood from her. She said: “That is not an apology. He is the Taoiseach of our country, he is the Taoiseach of the Irish people, and that is not a proper apology.”
The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity ran laundries at Drumcondra and Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dun Laoghaire, the Religious Sisters of Charity – the only one of the four to offer an unreserved apology – in Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and New Ross. The last laundry closed in 1996, Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city.