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Magdalene response “deeply disappointing” say British-based campaigners

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Justice for Magdalene campaigners, from right, London-based lawyer Maeve O’Rourke, Katherine O’Donnell and Claire McGettrick

SUPPORTERS of the Magdalene Laundries campaign for justice in Britain have said the response to yesterday’s report into state involvement was upsetting and inadequate.

They say the Irish Government has failed to reach out fully in support of survivors, especially those living here.

A report published yesterday found there was “significant” State involvement in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.

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It also revealed that 26.5 per cent of known admissions of women and girls were facilitated by the State.

London barrister and Justice for Magalenes campaigner Maeve O’Rourke described the Irish Government’s response as “inadequate and deeply disappointing.”

“Where is the women’s apology and the promise of unpaid wages, pensions and compensation. An apology does not take time,” she said.

“We will continue to campaign and we will expect an apology and plans for these women.

“Survivors in Britain should benefit from an apology and compensation in the same way as those in Ireland. I wish that yesterday they could have felt the Irish people were reaching out to them and saying sorry.”

The human rights lawyer, originally from Dublin, is now calling on Irish people in Britain to petition TDs in their home towns on the issue.

She said: “The public needs to get behind these women. Dr McAleese did not refute what these girls worked for no pay or that they were locked in. That amounts to servitude, forced labour and cruel treatment as survivors have said all along. Magdalene Laundries were appalling abusive institutions. The only thing that had been left to find out was whether the State was involved.”

She added: “The report verified what we have been saying all along, that the State was involved in all aspects of the laundries. The State did nothing about the forced labour these women were subjected to.”

The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries was headed by Dr Martin McAleese.

It can be read and downloaded in full here.

Its investigations estimated that 11,500 women passed through 10 institutions between 1922 and 1996. The committee found girls were subjected to humiliating verbal reprimands and harsh physically demanding work, which left a lasting impact.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his regret, but has not offered a full apology.

Instead he has asked the Dáil to reflect and return in two weeks for a full debate on the report.

Dr Sonja Tiernan, Lecturer in Modern History at Liverpool Hope says it remains to see what action will be taken.

“For the first time the survivors are free from the stigma associated with having been committed into these institutions,” she said.

“The Taoiseach has acknowledged that he is sorry that so many women had to live in such conditions. He has, however, not issued an apology for the State’s involvement. It remains to be seen what action, if any, will be taken by the Irish Government.”

She added: “The findings of this report highlight how the original purpose of these institutions altered dramatically. Women and young girls were effectively imprisoned and forced to engage in long and treacherous unpaid labour. The youngest girl on record was committed at just nine years of age. The findings overwhelmingly prove State collusion with the operation of Magdalene Laundries.”

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There a large number of Irish Magdalene Laundry survivors living in Britain and support service Connect provides free professional telephone based counselling at Freephone 00800 477 477 77.

Connect was established at the request of Irish and British-based survivor groups to provide an out-of-hours phone counselling and support service to people who have suffered abuse.

See  www.connectcounselling.ie for more information.

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Siobhan Breatnach
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Siobhán Breatnach is the Editor-in-Chief of The Irish Post. You can follow her on Twitter @SBreatnach

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One comment on “Magdalene response “deeply disappointing” say British-based campaigners”

  1. Linda Shannon

    Yet again there's woman have been failed by the Irish government. When will the politicians realise that they can't keep turning a blind eye to these atrocities. Are they trying to protect themselves or the Catholic Church. By not recognising the facts they are making themselves look very foolish. It will all come out in the end. I hope it will be soon.

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