State attitude to Magdalene women ‘is contemptible’

Magdalene women are being forced accept smaller compensation payments because the State believes the religious orders over survivors regarding how long they spent in the laundries.

In a strongly worded speech at the opening of the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s new offices, co-founder of Justice For Magdalenes Research (JFMR) Claire McGettrick said that despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s apology, the State was exercising a “contemptible” attitude to survivors which valued “damage limitation and optics before justice and fairness”.

“Perhaps the most contemptible double standard is that the religious orders — who have not contributed one cent towards the ex gratia scheme — are believed over survivors regarding duration of stay. As a result, some women, many of whom are in dire financial circumstances, have had no choice but to accept lesser amounts,” she said.

Ms McGettrick said that elderly and frail survivors were waiting 17 months for the HAA medical card promised to them in the wake of the Taoiseach’s apology, while the dedicated unit recommended by Mr Justice Quirke has also failed to materialise.

“Certificates of Irishness are presented to those with Irish ancestry, but the Magdalene survivors amongst the Irish diaspora remain in limbo, unsure if they will be given equivalent healthcare rights.

“Government ministers are guaranteed their pensions, yet with an arbitrary flick of a pen, it was decided that Magdalene survivors who worked for decades for no pay will not have their pensions restored to when they turned 65.”

She also hit out at the McAleese Report for claiming that no women were abused in laundries. “The report ignores almost 800 pages of testimony from survivors, which JFM offered to have sworn, a proposition which was declined by the inter-departmental committee. The women unequivocally stated that they were locked up against their will and in many cases, subjected to harsh physical punishments.”

Ms McGettrick was also scathing of the reports “woefully inaccurate” findings on how long women stayed in the institutions, including the “bizarre contention” that the median stay was seven months.

“Contrary to the Report’s assertions, JFM Research has found that half the women confined in two Dublin laundries between 1954-64 were never released.”

Ms McGettrick said the Government was refusing to join the dots on issues like Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes for fear of opening up “a bottomless quagmire” on the historic treatment of women and children here.

The JFMR co-founder said Ireland had “consistently failed women in crisis pregnancy since the foundation of the State” right up to the present day where women like Savita Halappanavar and Ms Y “have paid the ultimate price for our State’s legislative cowardice”.

“The Government has an opportunity to change how the court of history judges Ireland through the upcoming Commission of Investigation by ensuring it is open and transparent and as thorough as it needs to be.”

More on this topic

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Eight redress payments made to Magdalene survivorsEight redress payments made to Magdalene survivors

Department of Justice offers redress to women involved in disputeDepartment of Justice offers redress to women involved in dispute


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