Just one religious order apologises

Just one of the religious orders that ran Magdalene laundries has offered a specific apology to the women who suffered in their care.

The Religious Sisters of Charity, which ran laundries in Donnybrook, Dublin, and Peacock Lane, Cork, offered an apology but also said it acted in good faith.

“We apologise un-reservedly to any woman who experienced hurt while in our care. In good faith we provided refuge for women at our Magdalene homes in Donnybrook and Peacock Lane. Some of the women spent a short time with us; some left, returned and left again and some still live with us,” said a statement.

However, the remaining orders insisted they acted in good faith.

The Good Shepherd Sisters, which ran laundries in Limerick, Waterford, Cork, and New Ross, said in a statement: “We were part of the system and the culture of the time.

“We acted in good faith providing a refuge and we sincerely regret that women could have experienced hurt and hardship during their time with us.”

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, which ran institutions in Galway and Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, said it accepted the limitations of the care it provided for women.

“Their institutional setting was far removed from the response considered appropriate to such needs today. We wish that we could have done more and that it could have been different.

“It is regrettable that the Magdalene homes had to exist at all. Our sisters worked in the laundries with the women and, while times and conditions were harsh and difficult, some very supportive, lifelong friendships emerged and were sustained for several decades,” the order said a statement.

The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, which ran laundries at Drumcondra and Seán MacDermott St in Dublin, stressed that its intention was always to provide care and refuge to the women in its care.

“Regardless of why a woman was in a refuge or how she came to be there, we endeavoured to provide care. It is with deep regret that we acknowledge that there are women who did not experience our refuge as a place of protection and care,” said the order.

“Further, it is with sorrow and sadness that we recognise that for many of those who spoke to the inquiry that their time in a refuge is associated with anxiety, distress, loneliness, isolation, pain and confusion and much more.”

The Conference of Religious of Ireland, the umbrella group for religious orders, said the report noted the issue was not just about the religious, but about many other strands of Irish society.

“These refuges or homes were an inherited service and system widely used throughout Europe and elsewhere at that time. This care system — designed essentially for women who were destitute — was basic and inadequate when viewed in the 2013 context, but in its time was provided in good faith. The laundries were the principal means of support for the greater part of the history of the running of the refuges.”

Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, said the scale of the human rights abuses revealed in the report demanded the State issue an immediate apology, and offer reparations for what the women endured.

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