As it Happened: Magdalene Laundries Report

Updated: Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 14:02

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A report into the Magdalene Laundries has found the State was directly involved in the running of the laundries, with just over one quarter of referrals made by or facilitated by the State.

A report into the Magdalene Laundries has found the State was directly involved in the running of the laundries, with just over one quarter of referrals made by or facilitated by the State.

Key points:

- Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the report deals with 10,012 women
- The actual number of known admissions was 14,607
- The average age was 23, the youngest entrant was nine, the oldest entrant was 89
- Many instances of verbal censure, scoldings and humiliating put-downs
- No allegations of sexual abuse. A minority reported physical abuse
- Justice for Magdalenes said the Taoiseach's statement "falls far short of ... full and sincere apology"
- Read the Full Report ¦ Executive Summary

Helplines are available for anyone affected by the issue 


Prime Time this evening will focus on the report into the Magdalene Laundries


Labour Women welcomed the report, and said: "Any benefit that the State received by the Magdalene Laundries, be it in the form of placing women in a place of incarceration or benefitting from their virtually unpaid work, must be acknowledged.

"The Magdalene Laundries did not operate in secrecy. Their services were paid for by various bodies such as hotels, local people knew about them, as did the wider society. Their existence was not challenged. An apology should be something the entire nation owes to the Magdalene girls and women."


RTÉ Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little examines how today's report came about.


Right of Place Second Chance, an organisation that supports Survivors of Industrial School Abuse, has said it is disappointed with the report.

It said the report "did not go far enough and the comparison between those who suffered in industrial schools was unfair to both groups. This is a fundamental flaw as comparisons between personal suffering experienced by both groups is disrespectful to Magdalene survivors and re-traumatising to survivors of institutional abuse. 

"This reflects poorly on the understanding of an ongoing need for support for the most vulnerable survivors in society."

The group called on the Government to "implement a programme that will support survivors in health, welfare and care for the remainder of their lives".


Asked about the criticism of Enda Kenny's response to the report, the Taoiseach's spokesperson said he was not in a position to go beyond what was said.

He said a response has been issued, but obviously further study of the report will be needed, which would inform the Dáil debate in a fortnight's time.

The spokesperson would not be drawn on the question of possible redress for residents.


A spokesperson for Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said that he would echo the Taoiseach's apology to former residents of the laundries for the delay in removing the stigma from them.


Survivor Josephine Meade speaks to Paschal Sheehy about her treatment in the laundries


Claire McGettrick said that the women know that it was not present politicians that were responsible, but an apology from the State would mean so much to them.


Claire McGettrick says that we do not know the full facts because not all the women who have been affected have come forward. She said records do not exist for two laundries.

She said that their country has failed them yet again.


Claire McGettrick from the Justice for Magdalenes group tells the Six One news that for Enda Kenny to decline the opportunity to apologise today prolongs the stigma. 


Alan Shatter has said that nobody can excuse the conditions in which women lived in the Magdalene Laundries.


Bryan Dobson tells Alan Shatter that the report shows clear State involvement, but yet the State cannot say sorry. Alan Shatter replied "It is not as simple as that."


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has told the Six One news that Martin McAleese has undertaken tremendous work.


Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she is deeply disappointed at "the Taoiseach's failure to apologise to the surviving women of the Magdalene Laundries for the State's role in their incarceration in these brutal institutions".

She said: "The report sets out definitely direct State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries. Governments of the day oversaw the unpaid forced labour endured by the young girls and women who worked in the laundries without pay or proper care. Courts placed women and girls in the laundries. Gardaí returned those who sought to escape." 

She said that "whilst this is a lengthy report and its details must be studied carefully, State involvement in the operation of the laundries has already been proven. Senator McAleese's report simply reiterates that fact. So while the manner of compensation for the women requires consideration, the absolute need for a full apology does not."


"What happened in the Magdalene Laundries was wrong and we as a country need to acknowledge this and apologise." Niall Collins


"The Taoiseach and the Justice Minister have appeared to almost downplay what happened, emphasising the number of people who were in the laundries for less than a year and stopping short of a full apology and commitment to redress." Niall Collins


"The survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and their families have been waiting for far too long for an unreserved apology from the State and some form of redress for what they went through. I am surprised and deeply disappointed that they are still waiting for this today." - Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Niall Collins.


The Magdalene Survivors Together group said the Taoiseach's response to the report was not enough.

Steven O'Riordan from the group described it as a "cop out".


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Claire McGettrick from the Justice for Magdalenes group will be live on the Six-One.


Joe Little, David Davin-Power, Paschal Sheehy and Sandra Hurley will have reaction to the report on the Six-One News


Justice for Magdalenes has said that it is disputing reports that the Taoiseach apologised to survivors.

It 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."


Steven O'Riordan from Magdalene Survivors Together said the group is calling on the Taoiseach to do the right thing and issue a full apology to all the women who passed through the doors of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland.

He said that they feel that there is no way the State can abdicate responsibility to these women by allowing the perpetrators of what he described as these brutal crimes to go unnoticed.

He said it was clear from the report that courts, doctors, social workers, gardaí and ISPCC workers directly and indirectly admitted these women.


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


Mary Smith told Magdelene Survivors Together that she would like an apology. She was placed in Sunday's Well in Cork because she met a boy. She says that the State put her into the laundry.

She said that that was the end of her life. Her hair was cut and her possessions were taken from her. She says that she got up at 6am and worked in the laundry all day. Her name was changed to Mairead. She said that she was not too happy with the report and that she would like an apology for her incarceration.


Magdelene Survivors Together has been hearing stories from people affected by the laundries.

Maureen Sullivan said she was happy that the report had come out, but was disappointed that she said that they were living in denial. At the age of 12 she was taken out of her school in Carlow. She was brought to New Ross. She said that any time an inspector came she was hidden in a tunnel. She said that they took everything from her including her name, which they changed.

She said what she wanted was an apology from the religious orders and the Taoiseach. She said that what the Taoiseach said today was not an apology. She said that it was about doing the right thing.

In terms of compensation for what they had done, she said she felt she was entitled to compensation.


"It is important that we, as religious, acknowledge the part we played in the entire issue and it is also important that a system which had the support of many sectors of our society is not now presented as a matter only for religious if the necessary healing and reconciliation is to be found." - CORI


"The Magdalene Homes issue was and is not just about religious, but also involved many other strands of Irish society." - CORI


The Justice for Magdalenes group has described as bizarre the Taoiseach's decision not offer a full apology to women who had been inmates of the Magdalene laundries. 

Committee Advisor Katherine O'Donnell said Enda Kenny’s comments of regret were mealy-mouthed and half-hearted.

The group welcomed the fact that the report found State involvement in the laundries but said the report was wrong to say women had not been abused in the laundries. 

Lawyer Maeve O'Rourke said the women had been deprived of their basic civil and human rights and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment amounting to torture. 

The group is calling on the Government to immediately issue a full apology to the survivors.


"We look forward to the Government's response to the findings of today's report, which should focus as an immediate issue on a system of redress for the women concerned, which reflects the State's human rights obligations." - Irish Human Rights Commission Acting Chief Executive Des Hogan.


Enda Kenny has told Mary Lou McDonald the party whips will discuss when to hold the Dáil debate on the Magdalene Laundries. He said it will be afforded the deep consideration it is due.


Brian Lally spent the afternoon with women who were sent to Magdalene laundries. Hear their testimonies on Drivetime after 5.30pm.


In welcoming the report, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy said it hopes it "brings clarity, greater understanding and healing".

The committee found that the congregation did not have records at its homes in Dún Laoghaire and Galway, which closed in 1963 and 1984 respectively.

It said: "We fully acknowledge and are saddened by the limitations of the care which could be provided in these homes.

"Their institutional setting was far removed from the response considered appropriate to such needs today.

"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.

"We would like to extend an invitation to anyone who may have spent some time in either Dún Laoghaire or Galway to come and meet with us, if they so wish."


"The women who were imprisoned in these laundries suffered appalling and shaming injustices, often for the whole of their lives, and deserve a full unambiguous apology from the Government.

"These women were treated like slaves and deserve adequate compensation for the work they did while in the laundries and access to appropriate pensions, health care, and other supports," Barnardos Chief Executive Fergus Finlay.


SIPTU has called for financial compensation of the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and their families. It said religious orders and other businesses profited from the forced labour these women endured.

SIPTU Equality and Campaigns Organiser Ethel Buckley, said: "SIPTU supports calls for these women to receive adequate compensation for the abuse which they endured as workers condemned to forced labour."


The Good Shepherd Sisters welcomed the report, saying: "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.

"We have noted in the report that 'the lack of information given to some women, as to why they were sent and the length of time they would remain' was hugely upsetting for these women.

"In truth most of us were often not privy to this information, however, this should not have happened and we fully understand how wrong and upsetting this must have been."


The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge has said it welcomes the report.

It said: "Regardless of why a woman was in a refuge or how she came to be there, we endeavoured to provide care.

"It is with deep regret that we acknowledge that there are women who did not experience our refuge as a place of protection and care.

"Further, 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."


Welcoming today’s report, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O'Gorman said the scale of the human rights abuses demanded urgent action from the Government.

He said its first response must be an immediate apology and reparations for what these women endured.


"I appreciate that many women have lived their lives under a cloud because of the stigma that has attached to their residence in the Magdalene Laundries, irrespective of the circumstances which resulted in their admission and regardless of how much time they spent there.  This stigma was undeserved and its removal is long overdue." Alan Shatter


"I hope that publication of this report will be of comfort to the women directly concerned." Alan Shatter


"I commend the courage of those who were residents in the laundries who gave their time and told their stories to the committee and I thank them for their cooperation." - Minister for Justice Alan Shatter


David McCullagh on Twitter (@mcculld): "Heads being scratched on Govt back benches about Taoiseach's response to #Magdalene report."


Dr McAleese and his committee spoke with 58 former residents who are still being cared for by the religious congregations that ran the laundries.

It also spoke with a further 50 former residents who came forward to give evidence.

The committee was happy with the co-operation it received from State bodies and the religious congregations whose records it examined.


There are 879 deaths recorded in the laundries. The youngest recorded death is of a 15-year-old. The eldest was 95.


The parental status of women is not known in 53.9% of cases.

Of those that are recorded, 12.5% had both parents still alive.

Both parents were dead in 13.5% of known cases. It is then divided by 8.5% having just a father alive, with a higher figure of 11.6% having just a mother alive.


The Religious Sisters of Charity have welcomed the report’s publication.

In a statement, the sisters said: "We apologise unreservedly to any woman who experienced hurt while in our care. 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.

"We co-operated fully with Senator McAleese and his committee in the preparation of this report and made available all of our archival material. Each individual woman, if she so requests, will be welcomed and provided with any information we have on file regarding her stay with us."


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter says: "I regret that it was not until July 2011 that action was initiated on behalf of the State to undertake a comprehensive examination of the circumstances that applied in the laundries and the impact of the laundries on many of the women who resided there." 

"I am sorry that the State did not do more and the Government recognises that the women alive today who are still affected by their time in the laundries deserve the best supports that the State can provide."


Magdalene Survivors Together has called on the Taoiseach and the religious orders to give an official apology to women who were in the Magdalene Laundries. It also called for compensation to be given to the women.

While it said it was happy the report had been published, it believes an awful lot of denial still exists regarding the laundries.

The group, which represents 27 women who are still alive and who were in the laundries, has also expressed its disappointment that Stanhope Street in Dublin and Summerhill in Wexford were excluded from the committee's terms of reference.


Over a third (33.3%) were from urban backgrounds, 25.9% rural and 38.5% unknown.

The average stay at a laundry was approximately seven months, with 35.6% staying less than three months.


Of the recorded entrants, 8,025 were admitted in what the report's executive summary says are cases in which "routes of entry [referral] are known".

Of these 2,124 (26.5%) were made "or facilitated" by the state.

Just under a quarter (23.4%) of all those admitted had previously been "institutionalised".


The level of co-operation was good and access was given to all records. Records were available for eight of the ten laundries investigated.

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


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


But 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.


It said the environment 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.


The group set up to examine Magdalene Laundries has found a "significant" level of State involvement.

Over a quarter (26.5%) were sent there by the State by court order, gardaí, social services or under supervision after leaving industrial or reformatory schools.


Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the overriding requirement of the report was to deal with the stigma attached to those who worked and stayed in the laundries. He said this stigma needs to be removed.


Enda Kenny told the Dáil it has been proven that there was State intervention in a number of these laundries.

He said the State had involvement in 26% of cases where women were sent to the laundries.


Enda Kenny said "destitution and poverty" were among the reasons women ended up in the institutions.


Enda Kenny said there was no evidence of sexual abuse at the laundries. 

He said the stigma of being a resident should have been removed and he is sorry it has not happened sooner.


Enda Kenny said he would not go down Mary Lou McDonald's approach of "making a political football" out of this. He said that just over 10% of women sent to laundries were sent there by families, and that 19% went there themselves.


Ms McDonald said the time for an apology is now. She said the women were young, vulnerable women held in institutions against their will. She welcomed the fact that there would be a Dáil debate, but said she was disappointed that there would not be an apology today.


Mary Lou McDonald said the last of these institutes only closed in 1996. She said that sadly it is not a throwback to the 1940s or 50s. She said she was very alarmed by what Enda Kenny had said in the Dáil today.


Enda Kenny said the report refers to an Ireland which was a very far-off and hostile environment in the past. He said the report should be treated with the calmness and consideration that it deserves.


The Taoiseach said that the State should provide the very best facilities and support for any of the women who are still with us.


Enda Kenny said the average age was 23, the median age was 20, the youngest entrant was nine, the oldest entrant was 89.


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called for a Dáil debate in two weeks, when people have had an opportunity to read the 1,000-page report. 


Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the report deals not with 30,000 women but with 10,012. He said the actual number of known admissions was 14,607, as some women entered the laundries more than once.


Mary Lou McDonald said the State "failed these women, comprehensively". She said there was substantial State involvement, and substantial State responsibility.


Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald has told the Dáil the Magdalene Laundries were "a very Irish form of slavery".


Professor James Smith of the Justice for Magdalenes Campaign has called on the Taoiseach to apologise to the laundries residents - on behalf of the State - in the Dáil this afternoon.


RTÉ Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little's report for the One News says that campaigners have gathered hundreds of testimonies from former residents accusing nuns and the State of colluding in ill-treating and incarcerating women for being unmarried mothers, among other things.


The report will be available on the Department of Justice's website from 4pm. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to answer Leaders' Questions at 3.15pm.


Sinead Morris tells the News At One that Magdalene survivors say the State colluded with religious authorities to hold women against their will. The State has never admitted responsibility for this. 


David Davin Power says redress and / or compensation are now firmly on the agenda regarding the Magdalene Laundries.


RTÉ’s Political Correspondent David Davin Power has been told the McAleese report finds 'significant State involvement' in Magdalene Laundries.

He says: "Taoiseach anticipating that issue will be raised at LQs. Primed to respond. Inconceivable he won't apologise in some form." 


The report of the committee investigating State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996 will be published this afternoon.

It is expected to respond to allegations by former residents that the State colluded with the Catholic Church to illegally incarcerate thousands of women and girls and to make them do unpaid work.

Four congregations ran Magdalene Laundries: The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters.

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