Thursday, February 07, 2013

‘How could he not say sorry to us?’ Smith met Enda Kenny in 2009. He was “practically crying” when he heard her story of being dumped in the Magdalene Laundry in Sunday’s Well, Cork by the “cruelty man”.

“I can’t believe you never saw your mother’s face,” he said to her, his face pained.

Fast forward four years and his reaction was entirely different. Now Taoiseach, Mr Kenny was “sorry that they lived in that kind of environment” but he was unable to make a heartfelt apology for the State’s role in their incarceration, a role that was confirmed in a report handed to him.

“I was totally shellshocked when I heard him in the Dáil. I was appalled. If I could get hold of him now, what I wouldn’t say to him. How could he not say sorry to us? He was practically crying when he met me.”

Mary, originally from Kanturk but now living in Dublin, said she was “leathered with sticks” at the Good Shepherd. Sent to an industrial school as her mother was unmarried, she says she was locked up “by the cruelty man” in case she “got pregnant too”.

“It was so awful going in there, seeing all those elderly, elderly women and thinking my mother might be one of them. I had no one to turn to then and even now I’m all alone in the world as I was afraid to have children in case they were taken from me. I love children.”

Mary is a member of Magdalene Survivors Together. The group is now seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach before the planned Dáil debate in a fortnight.

In the past 24 hours, another six women have contacted the group.

Magdalene Survivors Together director, Steven O’Riordan, said: “One woman simply walked into the Clonmel Citizen Advice Centre and asked for my number. It is incredible to think that it has taken that woman 44 years to finally have the courage to come forward.”

Maureen Sullivan is another member of Magdalene Survivors Together. She “used to get boxed in the head”, especially when she wouldn’t answer to being called a number rather than her name.

She was also thumped into the stomach regularly. Other times, a nun would dig the cross of her rosary beads “right through you”.

Maureen puts it simply. “It isn’t true what the report said. It’s a farce to suggest there was no physical violence”.

Maureen, who now lives in Carlow, spent two years at the Good Shepherd laundry in New Ross, and another two years with a religious order in Athy before going to the “blind school” in Merrion.

“They robbed me of an education and had me slaving all day from 6am until 9pm. There was no physical abuse they say, but what about the times that you just collapsed from all the work? You just collapsed. No doctor, nothing. They won’t give us an apology for all of this. It’s appalling.”

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