Magdalene survivors’ stories ‘vital’

SURVIVORS of the Magdalene Laundries want to ensure their involvement in any future redress scheme will not preclude them from including their life stories in a national museum.

Earlier this year an interdepartmental group, headed up by Senator Martin McAleese, was established by the Ministers for Justice and Health to “clarify” any state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries. In August, Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) was asked to forward to the Ministers details of the redress scheme the group are proposing. It’s estimated that thousands of women were incarcerated at Magdalene Laundries, but only a few hundred are still alive.

As part of a Restorative Justice and Reparations Scheme, JFM is seeking a state apology, a dedicated unit within the Department of Justice which will act as a ‘hub’ for survivors enabling them to access pensions and wages they were never paid. They are seeking financial reparations through a part extension of the Residential Institutions Redress Board and also the preservation of their oral histories.

JFM advisory board member, Dr Katherine O’Donnell said: “It is crucial that participation in the scheme should in no way restrict women from publicly discussing what happened to them. It is vital that this is archived in a museum as this is our history”. Survivors of industrial schools who contributed to the Ryan Report were restricted from retelling their testimonies in public.

JFM is asking the State to “make an absolute commitment to minimise as far as possible the adversarial nature of the process”, said JFM Coordinating Committee member, Claire McGettrick.

“The scheme that we have sent to the Ministers differs from the previous redress board, in that JFM recommends that the State will accept as fact that the Magdalene Laundries were abusive, punitive institutions in which girls and women were routinely subjected to forced unpaid labour and unlawful and false imprisonment. As such then, each applicant will be afforded a certain minimum level of compensation simply for demonstrating that she spent time in a Magdalene institution,” she said.

JFM is also seeking a memorial to commemorate the Magdalene Laundries and the teaching of the history of the Laundries in Ireland’s schools.

Senator McAleese’s interim report on the Magdalene Laundries is due to be published next week.

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