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I CHALLENGE Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s use of the word “employee” in relation to women who were incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries.
During my years of volunteering with the Justice for Magdalenes group I have had the honour of speaking to many Magdalene survivors about their time in the laundries and not one would describe herself as an “employee”.
I have yet to meet a survivor who said she was paid for her hard work or who said she entered a laundry voluntarily. The State’s abdication of responsibility in relation to the laundries is shameful.
Mr O’Keeffe claims the State was not complicit in referring women to the laundries, yet he acknowledges himself in his letter to Tom Kitt that children were transferred from State-run institutions to them.
O’Keeffe and other elected representatives should examine their consciences and ask themselves if they found in present-day Ireland that women were being incarcerated against their will by the church and forced to work for no pay, would they still allow it to happen?
No decent human being would stand idly, so why should the women incarcerated in the past be treated any differently? In 2003 thousands of postcards were sent to the Government asking for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the exhumation and cremation of the bodies of 155 women from High Park Laundry in suspicious circumstances. Six years later it is as if the incident never occurred.
It wasn’t until the Ryan report, which took 10 years and cost more than €100m to produce, that institutional abuse survivors were believed.
Let us learn from that and give Magdalene survivors the recognition they deserve.
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