Magdalene survivors ask for pension and apology

MAGDALENE laundry survivors have called for an apology as well as basic compensation from the state in the form of a pension.

Groups representing the survivors have given a cautious welcome to the Government’s announcement that it will set up an independently chaired, inter-departmental committee to “clarify any state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries”.

The religious institutions that ran the laundries are to be asked to release all records on residents.

The Government’s action comes after demands by the UN Committee Against Torture for an inquiry and a long-running justice campaign by survivors

Yesterday, advisory board member of the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), Maeve O’Rourke, said the move, though short of a full statutory inquiry, was the “first step” towards a resolution.

“This inter-departmental committee is the first step because we are confident that if this inquiry is fast and fair, it will soon lead to an apology and concrete measures such as reparations for the women,” she said.

“If the committee speaks to the women and looks in the right places, it will quickly find evidence of state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries. This evidence is already available and it is overwhelming.”

Four religious congregations that ran the laundries have agreed to help achieve justice for the women who were forced to work there.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy and the Good Shepherd Sisters last week called the laundries a “dark story of Irish society”.

Research by JFM shows the state held contracts with Magdalene laundries, and that courts sent women to institutions “on probation” and “on remand”.

It also found that the Department of Health paid capitation grants for “problem girls” sent there as recently as the 1980s. The research also highlighted that the state at no time licensed, regulated or inspected the laundries.

Ms O’Rourke said survivors should be granted an apology and basic compensation in the form of a pension for the unpaid labour they had to carry out.

The Magdalene Survivors Together organisation has expressed disappointment that it will take up to three months for the inter-departmental group to deliver an initial report, given the amount of evidence already in the public domain.

The Irish Human Rights Commission also gave a guarded welcome to the Government decision.

Former residents of the Protestant evangelical Bethany Home Dublin also welcomed the decision but again called for access to the redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse.

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