Enda Kenny stopped short of a full apology for the State’s role in the admittance of women to the Magdalene Laundries. Rather than a full apology, Enda Kenny told the victims of the Laundries that he was “sorry that these people lived in that environment.” The statement came after the McAleese committee report, which was published at 4pm today, found clear evidence that the State was involved in the workhouses.
While Mr Kenny did acknowledge the State’s responsibility for facilitating 26.5 per cent of admissions to the laundries, he declined to apology for admissions which were outside of the Government.
Survivors of the laundries have expressed dissatisfaction with the Taoiseach’s initial response with one survivor, Maureen Sullivan, saying, “That is not an apology.”
Another resident, Mary Smyth, said she endured inhumane conditions in a laundry, which she said was worse than being in prison. “I will go to the grave with what happened. It will never ever leave me,” said Ms Smyth, also of the group.
Stephen O’Riordan who is spokesperson for Magdalene Survivors Together agreed saying, “This is not acceptable. It is a cop out,”
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald described the laundries as an Irish form of slavery and asked the Taoiseach when a full apology would be issued to survivors of the Laundry.
In response to this the Taoiseach repeatedly emphasized the ways in which women entered the laundries that 10 per cent of women were sent to one by their family while 19 per cent of women entered themselves. He added that the report reflected the Ireland between the 1920s and 1950s which was a “harsh and uncompromising and authoritarian” country.
However Mary Lou McDonald reiterated her view that the women in the laundries were not “residents voluntarily offering their Labour [but] young, vulnerable women” who believed themselves to be prisoners.
The Taoiseach was also quick to clear up misinformation surrounding the laundries pointing out that the numbers involved were not 30,000 people but 10,012. He also said that the State was only involved in 26% of cases where women were sent to the Magdalene Laundries.
Mr Kenny said there would be a full Dail debate on the report in two weeks’ time when people had an opportunity to read the report.