TDs call for forum to openly record testimonies of laundry survivors

Fianna Fáil has called for a forum to openly record the hundreds of testimonies of survivors of the Magdalene Laundries while others said the issue of redress for women should not be delayed.

Opposition parties and TDs were responding to the landmark apology by the State yesterday for the hurt suffered by former residents of the institutions.

Members on the other side of the house praised Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s apology on behalf of the State, and also praised Magdalene survivors in the public gallery who attended the Dáil speeches.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for a public forum where the testimonies of survivors could “be gathered and their experiences fully understood”.

He also reiterated his party’s acknowledgment that an apology had not been made before, saying: “I am sorry that that did not happen. I also accept that steps should have been taken earlier to make this apology.”

Any proposals for compensation measures — to be examined by Mr Justice John Quirke, president of the Law Reform Commission — needed to be approved by survivors, he added.

The Government yesterday made no mention of the level of compensation payments for survivors during speeches responding to the recent McAleese report on the laundries.

Mr Justice Quirke will report back to the Government within three months with recommendations.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams told the Dáil the conditions for former residents were akin to slavery and that the State had failed to challenge that.

Deputy party leader Mary Lou McDonald said the apology to survivors was only the first step and that redress and compensation needed to follow.

She and other opposition TDs said the McAleese report had been incomplete and that more records of laundries needed examination.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who has campaigned for former residents, said the placement of women in the laundries had breached the Constitution.

She said she supported calls for an archive for survivors’ testimonies and hoped the issue of compensation would not be delayed.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the history of the Magdalene laundries had been a “dark and shameful” one. Women had been denied their basic human rights, he said, adding: The women have led where we have failed.”

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