€250k available to UK-based laundry survivors

Following the Taoiseach’s apology this week, the Government is to make €250,000 immediately available to UK-based survivors of Magdalene laundries and industrial schools.

€250k available  to UK-based laundry survivors

According to renowned emigrant advocate, Sally Mulready, whose Irish Women’s Support Network (IWSN) organisation has been granted the funding, two-thirds of survivors of industrial schools and laundries are based in Britain.

Up to 480 UK-based survivors of Irish orphanages, industrial and reform schools are aligned to the IWSN. Up to 37 of these women were in Magdalene laundries.

In a speech following the Taoiseach’s apology, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the funding will be used to provide “a holistic and person-centred service that not only will offer accessible specialist advice and support to those affected, but also focus on ensuring their future health and well being”.

Last night, Ms Mulready said the IWSN had never had State funding before, with its only funding coming from the Ireland Fund of Great Britain Trust.

“These women fled Ireland because of what they went through. Ireland let them down and now they live a life of exile. We will put this money to the best possible use by offering housing support, support with income, and support on issues like relocating to Ireland,” she said.

Mr Shatter said the payment will be made as “soon as the legal technicalities have been clarified”.

Ms Mulready and Phyllis Morgan, vice-chairwoman of the IWSN, wrote a letter to the Martin McAleese committee which summarised the feelings of many IWSN survivors, many of whom spoke to Mr McAleese independently.

“The psychological and physical impact of their experience has been devastating and has stayed with them throughout their adult lives. Their suffering was greater still because they did not know why they were there, or who was responsible for placing them in these laundries. They had no idea when they would be released,” they wrote in the letter.

The women described the laundries as places of hard labour and “psychological cruelty and isolation”.

“We have been asked many times by those looking into this terrible part of Irish history, both privately to the women and in group meetings, about the role nuns played in any kind of physical punishment. Bearing in mind that we are talking here only about the experiences of women in the Laundries, it is our understanding that the severe physical brutality, including beatings and sexual assault which was common place in other institutions, did not take place in the Magdalene... Women have often described getting a ‘thump in the back’ or their hair pulled in retaliation for answering back or complaining but physical violence from the nuns does not seem to have gone beyond this in most cases. ”

*Magdalene Fund details: Magdalen Fund, 3rd Floor, Montague Court, 7-11 Montague Street, Dublin 2; Email: info@idcmagdalen.ie.

Phone: 01-476 8649.

Damages

The Magdalene Survivors Together group has warned that it will not take part in the Quirke redress scheme until their legal team is happy with the terms of reference drawn up by the Government this week.

The group, which is headed by Steven O’Riordan and now represents up to 50 survivors, has said that “the women won’t be signing up until they and their solicitor, Frank Buttimer, are entirely happy with the process and its terms of reference”.

Mr O’Riordan has expressed hope that St Mary’s Training School at Summerhill, Wexford, will also be included in the redress scheme. Stanhope St Training Centre was added to the eligible institutions on Tuesday night. A further 16 Houses of Mercy across the country may also now be added to the scheme. However, according to the Government, Bethany Homes will not be included as it is was a mother and baby home not a laundry.

MST met with Justice Minister Alan Shatter yesterday and said the meeting went “very well” with both sides agreeing that the process should be kept as “simple as possible”. MST are seeking €50,000 in compensation for trauma suffered for each woman and €20,000 for each year worked in the laundry.

They say the average time spent in the laundry, amongst their group, was four years.

— Claire O’Sullivan

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