Apology would be huge step, says Magdalene victim

An apology for the State’s role in the Magdalene Laundries would be “an enormous step forward”, say victims who believe it would allow the healing process to begin.

They expect Taoiseach Enda Kenny will issue an apology next Tuesday when former residents will travel from around the country and overseas to observe a Dáil debate on the report on the laundries.

“I think it’s definitely his intention to issue a state apology,” said Stephen O’Riordan, spokesman for Magdalene Survivors Together.

A spokesperson for Mr Kenny did not comment on the meeting but victims said Mr Kenny told them he was happy to “put a face to the stories” in the 1,000-page McAleese report.

“That meant something to us,” said one of the survivors, Maureen Sullivan.

“He was very sympathetic. We had to go over our stories again so that was quite tearful.”

Asked if the Taoiseach said he would make a full apology, she said: “Yes, I think that is coming.”

Mr O’Riordan said the women had spoken about things they had not told anybody before, so Mr Kenny should have the “social intelligence to understand that to make the apology is definitely the right thing to do on behalf of all of the citizens.”

Mr O’Riordan said nobody would disagree with the fact that the women should get a state apology “so hopefully he’ll step up to the leadership and do that”.

Mr Kenny told the women “I believe you”, according to Ms Sullivan. “Now, at the end of the day, all we ask for is two words: ‘I’m sorry,’ ” she said.

The meeting did not discuss the question of compensation for the women because the group felt it was not appropriate to do so.

However, Mr Kenny will come under pressure on the issue when he faces a Fianna Fáil Dáil motion tonight calling not just for an apology but for a dedicated unit within the Department of Justice “to co-ordinate the State’s response to the McAleese report, including all forms of redress for the survivors”.

A separate advocacy group, Justice for Magdalenes, did not attend yesterday’s meeting, as it had not been given assurances around its format, purpose, and whether survivors would be protected from the media.

One survivor, who did not wish to be named, told the Irish Examiner she was contacted by the McAleese commission on Friday.

The woman told the commission representative that she would not attend without having JFM present and the commission representative asked if “she could talk on her behalf”.

“I said that she certainly could not,” said the survivor. “She didn’t even know me. I have Justice for Magdalenes to represent me.”

At present, JFM is “forensically examining the report” with much focus on the testimony used in the report and the testimony supplied by the group, according to JFM spokeswoman Claire McGettrick.

“We have significant concerns about the report. The charges of physical abuse do not tally with the testimony supplied by JFM.”

London-based Irish Women’s Survivors’ Network did not attend the meeting either, as it said its members needed greater notice.

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