Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Some Labour TDs and Senators join calls for Magdalene apology

Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries said the Taoiseach's response fell short of what was needed (Pic: IFI)A meeting of Labour's Parliamentary Party has heard virtually unanimous criticism of the Government's handling of the McAleese report on Magdalene Laundries.

Sources said over a dozen speakers called for an official apology and some form of redress for survivors.

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said earlier that it was her personal view that there should be an apology.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore is said to have shared the concerns expressed by TDs and Senators at the meeting.

He is due to take Leaders' Questions in the Dáil tomorrow morning, where the issue is likely to be raised.

Earlier, Labour TD for Dublin North Sean Kenny told RTÉ's News At One said that two weeks is too long to wait for an apology.

His comments came after Taoiseach Enda Kenny this morning told the Dáil he wanted to use the next two weeks to decide how best to deal with the needs and requirements of the survivors.

Mr Kenny said he believes the Taoiseach should have been more decisive about when an apology should be forthcoming.

He said: "There is public concern about the delay in making an apology and I think that needs to be dealt with."

Also speaking to RTÉ News, Labour TD for Meath East Dominic Hannigan said the Government must take responsibility for the State's role, and apologise to Magdalene survivors.

Louth and East Meath TD Gerald Nash also called for a full apology.

TDs raised the report on the Magdalene Laundries at Leaders' Questions in the Dáil.

The Taoiseach said he had read much of the 1,000-page report last night and it had made harrowing reading.

He said it was important to reflect deeply on the findings and make the appropriate response in two weeks.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the Taoiseach to make an unequivocal apology on behalf of the Government and the State.

Mr Martin also said a dedicated unit should be set up at the Department of Justice to deal with any further matters that may arise, such as redress for the women.

Survivors of the laundries expressed their disappointment and anger yesterday at the Taoiseach's initial response to the report, which found that there was significant State involvement.

The report found that an estimated 11,500 women passed through ten institutions between 1922 and 1996, with just over one quarter of referrals made by or facilitated by the State.

Speaking on behalf of the Technical Group, Mattie McGrath said that one would think from listening to the Taoiseach that the young women went into the laundries voluntarily.

Mr McGrath said that the Government knew what was in that report and he asked why it needed a further two weeks to consider it.

Earlier, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said some of the criticism levelled at the Government yesterday came from people who had not read the report.

Mr Shatter said that the Government must now look at what it needs to do to be of assistance to those individuals whose lives were "blighted" by their experiences as residents in the laundries.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Shatter said the report showed the varied story of the experiences of the laundries' residents.

"We now know that 35% of the residents of the laundries were there for three months or less, over 60% for less than a year," he said. "Many of the stories we have heard in recent years relate to individuals who were residents in the laundries for very many years. What Government now needs to do is reflect on all the information that is now available, what can be done to be of help to people whose lives have been blighted by long stays in the laundries.
These are issues that require careful consideration in the context of how we move forward."
 
When asked whether it was wrong for the State to collude in the enslavement of children and women, the minister said that he did not want to use that type of language.

He said that it was absolutely clear that the laundries were cold and harsh environments.
Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald again called on the Taoiseach to offer a full apology on behalf of the State.

Speaking on the same programme, Ms McDonald said the issue of redress for victims will also have to be looked at.

She said: "The report clearly states that there was substantial State involvement in the running of the Magdalene Laundries. We knew this before the report, but we have it confirmed in the McAleese report, so there is a liability on the State. That is just the factual position."
 
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the Government will construct an appropriate response to the report before a Dáil debate takes place.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Minister Howlin said the response must meet the needs of the women involved.

The issue was also due to be discussed at the parliamentary party meetings of Fine Gael and Labour today.

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