Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Magdalene laundries survivors threaten hunger strike


http://s0.jrnl.ie/media/2011/10/magdalene-390x285.jpgElderly survivors of Ireland's notorious Magdalene laundries are threatening to go on hunger strike if the Irish government fails to establish a financial redress scheme for women held in the institutions.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition will receive a report on Tuesday that will establish the Irish state's role in a system that the UN Committee on Torture described as slavery.

Girls described as "troubled" or deemed to have been morally "fallen" – mainly unmarried young mothers – were ordered by courts to work unpaid in the laundries run by the Irish Catholic church. The workhouses operated from the early 1920s until 1996.

Steven O'Riordain, a representative of the Magdalene Survivors Together, has warned some women will go on hunger strike if the government does not meet their demands.

"There is a possibility that this will happen. Some of the women have said if they do not get proper redress from a state which was responsible for being abandoned in these institutions. Many of them say they are at that age now where they have nothing to lose if the government fails to set up a scheme that will give some compensation for what happened to them," he said.

In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture called on the Irish government to set up an inquiry into the treatment of thousands of women and girls.

It has been estimated that up to 30,000 women passed through the laundries and had to wash clothing and bedding for bodies ranging from the Irish army to hotel groups in the republic without any pay.

Tuesday's report has been headed by Senator Martin McAleese, the husband of the former Irish president Mary McAleese.

Three orders of Catholic nuns – the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd – ran the Magdalene laundries.

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