Wednesday, February 06, 2013

‘The State as guardian failed utterly and failed again by refusing to apologise’ group Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of cruelty and ineptitude in his refusal to apologise to the survivors of Magdalene laundries.

It also said the McAleese Report understated the number of women incarcerated in the laundries by as much as 50%, and that it utterly minimised the abuse they suffered.

They also rejected the finding the religious orders made little or no money from the laundries which, they stressed, had lucrative contracts and an unpaid workforce.

While they were pleased with the finding that the State was complicit in the running of the laundries, they said the report was not the complete story.

“There are aspects of this report that need substantial clarification. The Government should not see this as the full picture in any shape or form,” they said.

Anger was directed mostly at the Taoiseach, whose expression of regret in the Dáil was dismissed as insufficient.

“That was not an ap-ology. I don’t know what that was,” said JFM spokeswoman Claire McGettrick.

“The State as guardian failed utterly and failed again today by refusing to apologise. It’s cynical, it’s cruel, it’s prolonging the torture.”

Katherine O’Donnell, director of the Women’s Studies Centre at UCD, who has researched the laundries for the group, said the Taoiseach’s failure to apologise was down to “ineptitude”. “It beggars belief that he was so poorly briefed,” she said.

Mari Steed, the daughter of a Magdalene survivor, said the State feared that by apologising, it would leave itself open to a similar campaign by former residents of the various mother and baby homes.

Among the aspects of the report the group took issue with, was the finding that there was no physical or sexual abuse at the laundries. “It was abuse plain and simple. Forced, unpaid labour and incarceration amounts to torture,” said lawyer Maeve O’Rourke, one of the group’s advisers.

They also said it was unclear how sexual abuse had been classified. Many of the women had told of being stripped naked and of intimate humiliations. Some had become pregnant while incarcerated.

They also pointed out two laundries run by the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dún Laoghaire had been excluded from the inquiry, apparently because of deficient archives, and said the figure of 10,000 given for the number of women recorded as entering laundries needed to be revised upwards to at least 12,500.

The group called on the Taoiseach to have an apology ready when he enters the Dáil for the full debate in two weeks’ time.

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