Laundry survivors fear State will delay redress

Campaigners fear many of the survivors of the Magdalene laundries will be dead before the State compensates the estimated 1,000 women who were locked up by the nuns.

With the Government commissioned report, due to be published tomorrow, expected to reveal the true extent of state collusion with the laundries, the survivors fear they may never get redress.

Under the terms of reference, Martin McAleese’s report was precluded from making recommendations, but was charged with establishing the facts of state involvement.

It is then up to Justice Minister Alan Shatter to make any further recommendations.

However, with the Government slow to make any formal apology, fearing it could open the floodgates to expensive compensation schemes, Justice for Magdalenes co-founder Claire McGettrick said the time for action is now.

“These women are ageing and elderly [and] have been held hostage to a political process for too long,” said Ms McGettrick. “The time for action is now. The Government may be worried that redress might open the floodgates to other human rights infringements in mother and baby homes and mental hospitals but frankly that’s just cynical.”

Steven O’Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together, said he believes “the evidence of state complicity is too strong” and public opinion will force the Government’s hand.

“The Government can’t kick the can down the road again,” said Mr O’Riordan.

“The survivors in our group said they will chain themselves to the Dáil and go on hunger strike if that happens.”

While in opposition, Mr Shatter said there was irrefutable evidence that the State was “directly complicit” in sending women to Magdalene laundries.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, a campaigner for the Magdalene women, said Mr McAleese “did get a lot of co-operation from the Government departments and its agencies” and she believes “the report will be thorough”.

“What the ladies don’t want is yet another delaying game,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

“There is a huge urgency there. They are aged and urgently want an apology for what was allowed to happen to them. They also need pensions, medical cards, help with housing, and restorative justice.”

It is over two years since the Irish Human Rights Commission recommended that a statutory inquiry and redress be put in place for the estimated 1,000 living Magdalene survivors, and 18 months since the United Nations Committee Against Torture made a similar recommendation.

In his most recent report, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, special rapporteur on child protection, said the treatment of girls and women in laundries “constituted slavery”.

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