Magdalene Laundries Report

Committee report on State involvement with Magdalene laundries

Eoin Burke-Kennedy Tue, Feb 5
 
LIVE: Magdalene Laundries Report

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  • 15:44
    In less than 20 minutes, the long-awaited report on State involvement with Magdalene laundries will be presented to survivors and their advocacy groups.

    Senator Martin McAleese's report will detail for the first time the number of women and girls who entered these institutions and the level of State connivance in their operation.

    It represents another watershed moment in this State's attempt to come to terms with its past.

    We'll be covering the event and all the reaction live. Feel free to drop us a line with comments or reactions.
  • 15:49
    The first Magdalene laundry in Ireland opened on Dublin’s Leeson Street in 1767. Four female religious congregations came to dominate the running of the laundries. These were the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of our Lady of Charity of Refuge, and the Good Shepherd Sisters.

    The latter congregation also operated a Magdalene laundry in Belfast until 1977.

    There were 10 Magdalene laundries in the Republic following independence. These were at Waterford, New Ross, two in Cork, Limerick, Galway, and four in Dublin at Dún Laoghaire, Donnybrook, Drumcondra and Gloucester Street/Seán MacDermott Street. This latter – and last – laundry closed in October 1996.
  • 15:53
    Taoiseach Enda Kenny has just issued an apology on behalf of the State to the thousands of women locked up in Catholic-run workhouses known as Magdalene laundries between 1922 and 1996.

    As an inquiry found 2,124 of those detained in the institutions were sent by the authorities, Mr Kenny expressed his sympathies with survivors and the families of those who have died.
  • 15:54
    Taoiseach Enda Kenny
    To those resident who went into the Magdalene laundries from a variety of ways, 26 per cent from State involvement, I’m sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment
  • 16:05
    The report has just been published. It finds there was "significant" State involvement in the operation of the laundries. This had been denied by successive governments up until very recently.

    Perhaps surprisingly, the number of women involved is far less than previously estimated.

    The report suggests just over 10,000 women and girls entered Magdalene laundries since 1922 with more than a quarter (26 per cent) of referrals made or facilitated by the State.
  • 16:10
    The report found “no evidence” to support the perception that “unmarried girls” had babies in the laundries or that many of the women were prostitutes. “The reality is much more complex,” chairman Dr Martin McAleese writes in his introduction.

    It also found a wide range of reasons women and girls entered ten laundries examined.

    Reasons include: referrals by courts (mostly minor or petty offences), by social services, from industrial and reformatory schools, rejection by foster parents, girls orphaned or in abusive homes, women with mental or physical disabilities, poor and homeless women, girls placed by their families for reasons including socio-moral attitudes.
  • 16:13
  • 16:18
    My colleague Patsy McGarry adds: "The extent of State involvement with the laundries was quite remarkable not least considering the vehement denials of such involvement in the past, eg then Minister for Edication Batt O’Keeffe on September 17th 2007 and the testimony of the then secretary general at the Department of Justice Sean Aylward to he United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in May 2011 when he said women in the laundries he had spoken to had entered voluntarily.

    "This was not so, as The Irish Times had spoken to these same women after they had met Mr Aylward and other Department officials in November 2009 and all had been committed to the laundries."
  • 16:20
    Dr McAleese
    None of us can begin to imagine the confusion and fear experienced by these young girls, in many cases little more than children
  • 16:21
    Dr McAleese
    Not knowing why they were there, feeling abandoned, wondering whether they had done something wrong and not knowing when, if ever, they would get out to and see their families again
  • 16:27
    The State's involvement in these institutions has been laid bare once and for all.

    The report identified five areas where there was direct State involvement in the detention of women.

    - They were detained by courts, gardaí, 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.

    - Government paid welfare to certain women in laundries, along with payments for services.

    - Women were also enabled to leave laundries if they moved to other State-run institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, county and city homes

    - The State also had a role in registering the death of a woman in a laundry.
  • 16:29
    Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent
    The great majority of women in the laundries were there as a result of petty crime.
  • 16:32
    Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, has just issued a statement, calling for an immediate apology from the State and for reparations to be made to survivors.

    "The scale of the human rights abuses revealed in this report demand urgent action from the Government. Its first response must be an immediate apology and reparations for what these women endured."

    "A fully independent investigation into the allegations of arbitrary detention, forced labour and ill-treatment that took place in the Magdalene laundries must be set up as soon as possible. Justice must be done. The perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted."
  • 16:36
    A prominent survivors group has rejected the Taoiseach’s apology, and demanded a fuller and more frank admission from government and the religious orders involved.

    Maureen Sullivan, Magdalene Survivors Together, 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.”
  • 16:37
    Mary Smyth, a survivor of the Magdalene regime.
    I will go to the grave with what happened. It will never ever leave me
  • 16:41
  • 16:44
    While the report produces extensive evidence that there was no physical abuse of the women in the laundries, unlike their experiences in the residential homes for children from which some of them had been referred.

    It also, however, provides evidence that women suffered psychological/verbal abuse in the laundries where the regime was harsh, lonely and frightening places.
  • 16:46
    Some 50 per cent of the women/girls put to work were under the age of 23. The report said 40 per cent — more than 4,000 — spent more than a year incarcerated.

    Some 15 per cent spent more than five years while the average stay has been calculated at seven months. The youngest death on record was 15, and the oldest 95.
  • 16:51
  • 17:01
    The multi-faceted nature of State involvement completely rubbishes the comments of senior State officials who, up until recently, denied any collusion with the Magdalene regime.

    Even a cursory glance at how these institutions operated would have identified the hand of the State. Justice has been hard won by these women.
  • 17:05
    Trade union Siptu has called for the financial compensation of survivors. Equality and Campaigns Organiser, Ethel Buckley, said the scale of the abuse of women in the Magdalene Laundries can no longer be denied.

    “The mental anguish these women and their families endured can never be undone. The issue of the social context in which this abuse was allowed to persist, and in many instances supported, by the State is an issue to which Irish society must now face up."
  • 17:08
  • 17:11
     Steven O'Riordan (centre) head of Magdalene Survivors Together with survivors [from left] Marina Gambold, Mary Smyth, Maureen Sullivan and Diane Creighton. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/Irish Times
    Steven O'Riordan (centre) head of Magdalene Survivors Together with survivors [from left] Marina Gambold, Mary Smyth, Maureen Sullivan and Diane Creighton. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien/Irish Times
  • 17:12
    In the Dáil this afternoon, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his sympathies with survivors of the laundries and the families of those who have died.

    “To those residents who went into the Magdalene laundries from a variety of ways, 26 per cent from State involvement, I’m sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment,” he said. However, he stopped short of issuing a full State apology.
  • 17:16
  • 17:16
    Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said he regretted that nothing was done to investigate the laundries until July 2011.

    “I am sorry that the State did not do more and the Government recognises that the women alive today who are still affected by their time in the laundries deserve the best supports that the state can provide."
  • 17:18
    The four congregations who operated the Magdalene laundries have welcomed today’s report and apologised to women who experienced hurt while in their care. Read more...
  • 17:30
    BBC - Irish PM: Magdalene laundries product of harsh Ireland

    Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has apologised for the stigma and conditions suffered by women who were inmates of the Magdalene laundries. Mr Kenny said the laundries had operated in a "harsh and uncompromising Ireland," but he stopped short of a formal apology from the government.

    Guardian - Ireland accepts state guilt in scandal

    Ireland has officially recognised the state's guilt in the "enslavement" of more than 30,000 women, most of whom were sent against their will into church-run institutions where they received no pay, no pension and no social protection.
  • 17:35
    Survivors Marina Gambold and Mary Smyth at the Magdalene Survivors Together Group press conference
    Survivors Marina Gambold and Mary Smyth at the Magdalene Survivors Together Group press conference
  • 17:46
    Here's a summary of what we've had today;

    - Report finds 10,000 women and girls entered Magdalene laundries since 1922

    - More than a quarter (26.5%) of referrals made or facilitated by the State

    - Taoiseach expresses sympathies but falls short of issuing full State apology

    - Shatter laments State did not investigate the laundries until July 2011

    - Survivor groups call reparations to be made to survivors

    - While the laundries were harsh, lonely places, report finds no evidence of sexual abuse

    - The average age of detainees 23, the youngest was nine, the oldest 89

    - The majority of women were detained as a result of petty crime

  • 17:49
    The interior of the now derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott St in Dublin's north inner city
    The interior of the now derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott St in Dublin's north inner city
  • 17:53
    Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Drivetime, Historian Diarmaid Ferriter questions the report's finding that laundries were operated on a not-for-profit basis
  • 17:56
    We've just put up a selection of poignant quotes from survivors, entitled Voices from the laundries. Here's the link
  • 18:00
  • 18:03
    The woman known to the nuns as Geraldine
    All your life was about prayer, what did it do for us? They enslaved us, most of them were very horrible people. I don't know how they said they were people of God, they were not people of God... It's ruined my whole life.
  • 18:08
    At the Justice for Magdalenes press conference were from left; Mari Steed, Claire McGettrick, Katherine O'Donnell and Maeve O'Rourke, following the findings of the report, pictured in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/Iris
    At the Justice for Magdalenes press conference were from left; Mari Steed, Claire McGettrick, Katherine O'Donnell and Maeve O'Rourke, following the findings of the report, pictured in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/Iris
  • 18:12
    The Religious Sisters of Charity was the only one of the four to offer an unreserved apology to any woman who experienced hurt.

    “In good faith we provided refuge for women at our Magdalene Homes in Donnybrook and Peacock Lane (Dublin),” the order said.

    “Some of the women spent a short time with us; some left, returned and left again and some still live with us.”
  • 18:14
    The Sisters of Mercy, which ran institutions in Galway and Dun Laoghaire, said it accepts the “limitations of the care” it provided.

    The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, which ran laundries at Drumcondra and Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, said their intention for 160 years was to offer refuge.

    “The laundries which were attached to refuges were hard and demanding places to work. Many women used our refuges as a place of last resort. There are also many who found themselves in a refuge through no choice of their own,” the order said.
  • 18:19
    My colleague Patsy McGarry speculates that Taoiseach Enda Kenny may be waiting for some sort of redress scheme to be put in place before making a full apology on behalf of the State. Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced the establishment of the institutional abuse redress board in tandem with his unreserved apology to victims in 1999.
  • 18:24
    Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald has been strident in her criticism of the Government's response to the report.

    “I am so disappointed for the surviving women, that the Taoiseach would not say today that the State was culpable and negligent, that the women told the truth and the government believes their stories and for that, it is sorry."
  • 18:35
    A general view of a plaque dedicated to Magdalane Laundry survivors in St Stephens Green in Dublin
    A general view of a plaque dedicated to Magdalane Laundry survivors in St Stephens Green in Dublin
  • 18:44
    Senator Martin McAleese at the launch of the report
    Senator Martin McAleese at the launch of the report
  • 19:03