State facilitated 26% of Magdalene admissions

Updated: Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013 06:06

The committee investigating State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries has found that 26.5% of known admissions of women and girls were facilitated by the State.

They were sent there by court order, gardaí, social services or under supervision after leaving industrial or reformatory schools.

An estimated 11,500 women passed through ten institutions between 1922 and 1996.

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries was published today.

The committee, chaired by Dr Martin McAleese, found the environment in the laundries was harsh and involved physically demanding work, which produced a traumatic and lasting impact on the girls.

There were many instances of verbal censure, scolding and humiliating put downs.

However, the ill treatment and physical punishment present in industrial schools was not reported in the laundries, according to the vast majority of women.

No allegations of sexual abuse were made against the nuns.

The laundries operated on a break-even or subsistence level, rather than on a commercial or highly profitable basis and women were not paid salaries.

The level of co-operation with the committee was good and access was given to all records.

However, records were available for only eight of the ten laundries investigated.

Two laundries operated by the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dún Laoghaire did not have records.

Over 10,000 women passed through the eight; the figure of 11,500 is an estimate based on capacity.

The number does not include re-admissions, which may account for the higher anecdotal figure.

Helpline: Samaritans on 1850-60-90-90

Survivors want apology

Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries have expressed disappointment that there has been no full official apology.

Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his regret, but stopped short of offering a full apology.

Mr Kenny said he was sorry that the women involved had to live in the environment of the laundries.

He said the report reflected a harsh and uncompromising Ireland of between the 1920s and the 1950s.

The stigma of the residents of the Magdalene Laundries needed to be removed, he said.

Mr Kenny proposed that members of the Dáil take time to reflect on the report and return in two week's time for a full debate on the issues raised.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter apologised on behalf of the State for the delay in inquiring into the laundries and their impact on the women who lived in them.

In a statement, the minister said he was sorry the State did not do more.

He said the Government recognised that the former residents alive today, who are still affected by their experiences, deserved the best State supports possible.

In response, the Justice for Magdalenes group said: "The Taoiseach's statement falls far short of the full and sincere apology deserved by the women who were incarcerated against their will in Ireland's Magdalene Laundries."

The Magdalene Survivors Together group has also called for an apology and for compensation to be given to the residents.

The group said while they were happy the report had been published, they believed that much denial still existed regarding the laundries.

Sally Mulready of the Irish Women's Survivors Network said the remaining survivors of the laundries were seeking a fast, fair and just resolution.

Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Niall Collins said he was surprised and deeply disappointed that the survivors are still waiting for an apology and some form of redress.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the fact that there will be a Dáil debate on the matter, but said today was the time for a full apology.

Religious orders welcome report

The four congregations that ran the Magdalene Laundries - The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters - have welcomed the report.

The Religious Sisters of Charity apologised "unreservedly to any woman who experienced hurt while in our care".

They said: "In good faith we provided refuge for women at our Magdalene Homes in Donnybrook and Peacock Lane. Some of the women spent a short time with us; some left, returned and left again and some still live with us."

The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge said: "It is with sorrow and sadness that we recognise that for many of those who spoke to the inquiry that their time in a refuge is associated with anxiety, distress, loneliness, isolation, pain and confusion and much more."

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy said: "We wish that we could have done more and that it could have been different. It is regrettable that the Magdalene Homes had to exist at all."

The Good Shepherd Sisters said: "We were part of the system and the culture of the time. We acted in good faith providing a refuge and we sincerely regret that women could have experienced hurt and hardship during their time with us."

Read the full report on the Magdalene Laundries

Helplines for those affected by the issue

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Dáil comments

As It Happened