A NEW report on "Magdalene Laundries", run by four congregations
of Irish nuns, has found that, from its inception in 1922, the
State was complicit in consigning victims to the institutions,
despite consistent denials.
The ten laundries were attached to convents across the State and
in Northern Ireland, dating back almost 200 years. They were used
to confine young girls and women who were homeless, or orphaned, or
considered to be "troubled", or deemed by the Roman Catholic Church
to be "fallen women". The last one closed as recently as 1996.
Inmates, believed to number more than 10,000 in total, were
forced to work in slave-like conditions, with no pay, education, or
contact with the outside world.
Survivors were denied compensation under the state's redress
scheme, because the government held that the Magdalene institutions
were outside its remit.
New findings suggest that the state made, or facilitated, 2124
referrals of inmates to the laundries. The age at entry was an
average 23.8 years. Many survivors said that they were subjected to
physical violence, but of those interviewed for the report, most
spoke of mental cruelty and humiliation.
The new report, published on Tuesday, was compiled by an
inter-departmental commission, with the assistance of the religious
orders concerned, and led by Dr Martin McAleese, the husband of
Ireland's former President, Mary McAleese.
It found that girls and women faced a harsh regime of physically
demanding work in lonely and frightening places, and that among the
reasons given for entry were referrals by courts or industrial
schools, physical or mental disability, family placement, and
Survivors are now demanding an apology and compensation.
All four religious orders have apologised. They are the Sisters
of Mercy, Religious Sisters of Charity, the Good Shepherd Sisters,
and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity.
Responding to the report's findings in the Dáil, the Taoiseach,
Enda Kenny, expressed sorrow for the women several times in his
speech, but did not go so far as to offer a full apology. The
Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, said that the report would be
considered in the next few weeks, and a full response would