Dáil dispute over apology for Magdalenes

An apology to the victims of Magdalene Laundries was at the centre of a bitter political row last night as the Government accused the opposition of “breathtaking opportunism” for tabling a Dáil motion on the issue.

Dáil dispute over  apology for Magdalenes

Justice Minister Alan Shatter accused Fianna Fáil of a “shameful attempt to make political capital” from a report “dealing with the hurt felt by many women during and as a result of the time they spent in Magdalene Laundries”.

He was speaking during a debate on a motion put down by Fianna Fáil urging a full state apology and some form of redress for the women. The motion was defeated.

During the debate, Independent TD Clare Daly called for “further examination” of the statement in the report by Martin McAleese that ill-treatment, physical punishment, and abuse was not a feature of the laundries, which she said was “not credible”.

Fellow Independent Catherine Murphy also questioned the finding: “I just can’t believe that there wasn’t serious and significant physical abuse.”

She said there were “flaws in the way the report was constructed” because it was not independent and the terms of reference were very “confined”.

The Taoiseach plans to travel to London on Saturday where he will meet some of the victims at the Irish embassy.

Enda Kenny met six victims on Monday and indicated that a state apology would be forthcoming when the Dáil discussed the report next Tuesday.

Mr Shatter asked why Fianna Fáil — when it had done nothing about the issue for 14 years in government — could not wait until next week for the Government to consider the issues before apologising.

He said Fianna Fáil had not acted on the issue for 14 years and “now we have to take at face value the concern that two weeks is too long to devise a considered response to this report”.

Mr Shatter said the “breathtaking level of opportunism, cynicism, and hypocrisy, even by the standards of Fianna Fáil, isn’t confined to that party”, but also to Sinn Féin, which supported the motion.

“Sinn Féin also thinks two weeks is too long to wait to respond to the report, yet it took 17 years after Det Gda Jerry McCabe was murdered before they saw fit to apologise,” he said.

Fianna Fáil hit back, with its justice spokesman Niall Collins saying Mr Shatter was the one being partisan on the issue and health spokesman Billy Kelleher claiming the motion had been tabled for “the right reason”.

Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue said Mr Kenny’s initial response to the report last week added to the difficulties of victims.

“I think, therefore, it was appropriate that we discuss the matter tonight,” he said.

Kerrry Independent Michael Healy-Rae said the Government was “painting the motion as something it is not” and said it had taken “the outrage of the opposition” for Mr Kenny to apologise.

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