Wednesday, 6 February 2013


This particular piece of news is one of the most shameful things I have ever had to bring to your attention, for I consider it to be a national disgrace.

The following is an extract from todays Irish Times (6th February 2013)

Maureen Sullivan a Magdalene survivor 

The Government will seek a "clear strategy and a clear plan" as to how best to deal with the findings of the report into the Magdalene laundries, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
The Government came under renewed criticism today following the refusal of Mr Kenny to issue a full apology to the women who spent time in the laundries, despite the fact that more than a quarter were sent there by the State.
The 'Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries' was published yesterday by an interdepartmental committee chaired by Martin McAleese found the women were from many backgrounds.
Some were referred by courts, others released on licence from industrial schools before they reached 16 years of age, while some were young women over 16 years of age who had been orphaned or were in abusive or neglectful homes.
Responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said he was "genuinely concerned about bringing reconciliation and closure to the women involved". The report exposed the truth and "in that regard the first and major issue of concern to the girls and women in the Magdalene laundries was the removal of the stigma".
He didn’t want to get into "adversarial diplomacy" on an issue as sensitive and evocative of bad memories for people.
The Taoiseach said the Government itself would reflect on the issue and he would "like the space to work with government by putting a process in place so that we can help these women reach closure".
Mr Kenny told the Fianna Fáil leader that his government "refused to actually investigate it then. This Government is dealing with it in the context of the McAleese report which sets out the truth here."
Mr Martin, who chaired the committee dealing with industrial school abuse, told the Dáil he was "sorry we didn’t deal with the Magdalene laundries at the time".
He said the committee led to a State apology to survivors of industrial schools. And he told Mr Kenny that the 1,400 page report published yesterday on the Magdalene laundries "doesn’t take any stigma away".
"The only effective way for the stigma to be removed by the State is to apologise with no ifs and no buts," he said.
Responding to questions from Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald, Mr Kenny said some of the information contained in the report had not previously been available. It was the "duty and responsibility of the Government to examine it and reflect on it and decide what is the best thing to do from here", he said.
“I am sorry that so many women worked and were resident in Magdalene laundries in a very harsh and authoritarian environment," Mr Kenny said in response to criticism from Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald. Ms McDonald told the Taoiseach that yesterday had been the time for the Government to apologise and to tell the women: "You were wronged."
Mr Kenny said he did believe the stories of the women and that the report was the truth about what had happened to them and about their lives and their experiences.
He believed the Government had a responsibility to act to "bring closure" to the women and he acknowledged that many of them were elderly and not in robust health.
The Taoiseach said it was a case of having "a clear strategy and a clear plan as to how best to deal with it and that is what the Government will do". There would be a further opportunity to discuss the report in two weeks, Mr Kenny added.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said today the report was a "watershed" that had cast light on areas that had been in the shadows. However, he declined to comment when asked on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland whether it was wrong for the State to be involved with the laundries.
“I don’t want to use that type of language,” Mr Shatter responded when asked if it was “wrong for the State to collude with the enslavement of women and children?”
He also criticised opposition TDs who called for an apology yesterday before reading the report in full.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he thought the Government would be "compassionate" in its response.
The facts had been "long and late" coming but the Government had set up the inquiry within a few months of coming into office. He said Dr McAleese had been the right person to conduct the inquiry.
Labour Party TD Gerald Nash tweeted that a "full, sincere" apology was needed. His Labour colleague Aodhán Ó Ríordáin tweeted that it was “clear that the state owes the Magdalene women an apology”.
"Quick progress on this issue is important," he said.


The  report by Dr Martin Mc Aleese, also reported that coroners do not appear to have been notified of deaths in the laundries for some years leading up to 1996. The inquiry into State involvement with the laundries said that end-of-life issues relating to the 879 women who died in the institutions since 1922 
An estimated 11,500 women passed through ten institutions between 1922 and 1996.


  1. Oh Mel, I have seen the film about this and I was in tears. These girls were imprisoned and abused and from what I can remeber one girl killed herself, Probably only one of many. These things happened in convents over here too and have only recently come to light. I shudder to think what other things went on without anyones knowledge. Shame on them.
    Margaret x

  2. I thought slavery was illegal.
    But apparently there are more people who are owned by others, now, than ever before in history.
    Thanks for putting this up Mr Heron.

  3. JACK TISDELL commented:

    Yes a national crime committed in the Irish Peoples name. Mountmellick St Vincents Hospital had its own Laundry. Some fallen (?) Women were held there as slave labour, in some cases their teenage sons slaving on large farms after school until they could escape by emigration. O was the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the first Dáil betrayed and abandoned in those institutions, and by those running this state.
    Jack Tisdell

  4. How absolutely appalling. I thought this kind of institution was Dickensian and Victorian and had not survived into the 20th century. I am deeply ashamed that I never knew.

    1. Val I have since your comment added a footnote to the blog showing statistics.

  5. Birgit Huvendieck wrote

    Oh, this is so painful!

    I am grateful for you bringing up this topic because it is crucial for all uf us that these kind of things come to the daylight and are addressed!

    This is why we have to talk about this things and that we stand up together against violance in any form against women and girls.

    There is on 14. February, V- day vor Vagina Day, an worldwide action taking place called one billion rising.

    It was started 15 years ago by Eve Ensler a writer, who interviewed many women on how they feel. (Here is Eve Ensler talking about V day

    This interviews have been published in the Vagina monologes as a book, also as a play. All over the world women and men are rising together to end violance in any form against women. The rising will take place in form of dancing, plays in many ways.
    Here is a link to V-day, watch the video ( ) and find a place to join or start one yourself.
    Here you can find an event, I know there is one in Dublin and one in Cork

    Here is another link to the website

  6. I listened to this on radio 4 so sad

  7. Not much mention of the priests and nuns in your piece above. Maybe the state was involved, but the real perpetrators of evil was the church.


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