Magdalene survivors plan protest at order’s HQ

Magdalene Laundry survivors plan to protest outside the provincial headquarters of a religious order which has refused to contribute to the State’s redress scheme.

The Cork Feminista activist group has urged people to join the solidarity protest outside the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy’s offices in Cork City from 1pm on Saturday.

In recent weeks, Magdalene survivors and their supporters have collected over 1,000 signatures calling on the four religious orders which operated the laundries — the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Religious Sisters of Charity — to pay into the Government compensation fund for the survivors.

The fund could amount to €58m but, to date, all the orders have refused to contribute.

The signatures have been signed on large white sheets — a symbolic connection to the laundries — which will be displayed during the protest on Bishop St.

Cork Feminista co-organiser Maureen Considine criticised the religious orders.

“Their refusal to recognise and apologise for the abusive treatment and enslavement of girls and women is a lost opportunity to atone for the physical and emotional harm done to the inmates, and, to call out the rest of society for their collusion in the enslavement of these women,” she said.

The religious order said it has pledged full cooperation with all the recommendations contained in Mr Justice John Quirke’s report into a compensation scheme, and renewed its invitation to survivors to come and meet them.

But, despite the pledge, it will not be contributing to the compensation scheme.

“Our congregation has provided care to women who spent time with us in many different contexts throughout our history and that we will continue to do in ways that accord with our mission,” it said.

“As taxpayers who donate their net salaries /pensions to our charitable funds, our sisters share in the burden of all citizens in responding to women for whom, in past decades, admission to Magdalene Laundries was seen as appropriate refuge.”

But Ms Considine said the order could lead the way in restoring the faith of people dismayed at the Catholic Church’s failure to adequately respond to abuses carried out in its name and by its leaders.

“An apology and a commitment to pay into the compensation fund would be a significant gesture which would contribute to the healing process,” she said.

Cork Feminista was founded in Aug 2010 to provide a discussion and activist space for feminism in Cork.

The collective, made up of women and men, meets regularly to discuss different issues.

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