Magdalene survivors group to meet Harney

A GROUP representing survivors of the Magdalene Laundries will meet with the Health Minister Mary Harney today to discuss her department’s historic role in the laundries.

For the past nine months, Justice for Magdalenes has been calling for a redress scheme for the thousands of women who were housed in Magdalene laundries across the country.

They have also sought an apology from the state. So far, they have got nowhere with the Government but the state’s role in the religious-run institutions has gradually become clearer.

JFM will ask Ms Harney if she can confirm that a policy existed whereby women giving birth to a second child out of wedlock in a state-licensed home were systematically transferred to the laundries.

They have also repeatedly sought records for the women and children sent to the institutions and questioned whether they were ever inspected.

It has now been established following meetings with the Department of Justice that women were placed “on remand” at the Sean Mac Dermott Street laundry in Dublin and that the courts routinely referred women to the laundries rather than impose a prison sentence.

JFM has sought details on why capitation grants were paid by health boards for so-called “problem girls” who were sent to these homes in the 1970s.

In February, then Department of Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin acknowledged that PRSI payments were not made by the religious orders in respect of any of the women in the laundries.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has refused to reveal details on whether tax receipts were forwarded on behalf of the women.

The Department of Education has also acknowledged that children were confined in the laundries as late as 1970.

Last night JFM questioned the Taoiseach’s attitude to these women. “Does Mr Cowen believe that women deserved the treatment they endured in the nation’s Magdalene laundries? Does he really think there is nothing to apologise for? Or does he simply not care?” spokesman Professor James Smith said.

The religious orders have refused to release any records on the women entering the laundries after January 1, 1900, and so there are still no details on numbers, why they were there, how long they tended to stay or what became of their children.

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