State criticised for refusing to apologise to Magdalene women

THE Justice For Magdalenes (JFM) advocacy group has accused the Government of refusing to apologise to the women who were kept in Magdalene Laundries as they know most of the women are very elderly and too ashamed about their past to campaign for justice.

JFM’s latest comments come after Justice Minister Dermot Ahern once again rejected JFM’s calls for an apology and the establishment of a distinct redress scheme.

A day earlier junior minister for education Sean Haughey ruled out the extension of the existing Redress Board to include survivors of Bethany Home.

Earlier this summer, it emerged that in the 1930s and 1940s, 219 children died at Bethany Home for Protestant children in Rathgar, Dublin and were buried in unmarked graves at Mount Jerome.

Documentation found by JFM has proven that the Irish court system referred women to both of Bethany Home and the Magdalenes as analternative to a prison sentence, and that women were also placed in these homes on probation and on remand.

In a parliamentary question to Fine Gael Deputy Olivia Mitchell, Minister Ahern once again said “the Magdalene Laundries were private, religious run institutions without any legislative or state mandate for their general operation.

“The vast majority of females who entered or were placed in Magdalene Laundries did so without any direct involvement of the state. My department has met with representatives of JFM, has exchanged views and offered every assistance possible to allow access to the limited available records.

“However, there are no plans to introduce a state-funded redress scheme,” Mr Ahern said.

According to JFM spokesman, James Smith, the Government’s offer to provide records to victims is “an empty gesture” as much of the Department of Justice’s historical records can’t be accessed due to flooding and a fire in the buildings where the records were housed.

“I would suggest therefore that if the state and Church were willing to offer an apology for its complicity in these abusive laundry institutions, more Magdalene survivors would come forward too.

“It helps survivors to know that what happened to them was wrong and that it wasn’t their fault,” he said.

“When I met with one of those elderly survivors after my recent trip to Ireland she knew precisely what all this political gesturing is about.

“She said simply, ‘they are just stringing it out, knowing in 10 years time they’ll be none of us left’.”

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