Dublin apologizes to Magdalene women and girls

The Guardian, DUBLIN

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - Page 7

The Irish state has finally said sorry to 10,000 women and girls incarcerated in Catholic Church-run laundries where they were treated as virtual slaves.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny was forced into issuing a fulsome apology on Tuesday evening to those held in the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland.

The apology in the Irish parliament came about two weeks after a damning report was released detailing the way women and girls were maltreated inside the nun-controlled laundries.

Survivors’ groups were infuriated when the Irish prime minister initially declined two weeks ago to explicitly apologize for the state’s role in sending women and girls into the Magdalene Laundries, sometimes simply for coming from broken homes or being unmarried mothers.

In a powerful speech to a packed parliament, Kenny made some amends for what many view as a major error of judgement on the day the report was released.

At the end of his address, Kenny appeared to break down briefly, choking back tears as he quoted a Magdalene woman’s song to him during a meeting recently.

Kenny said what happened to the Magdalene women had “cast a long shadow over Irish life, over our sense of who we are.”

He said he “deeply regretted and apologized” for the hurt and trauma inflicted upon those sent to the Magdalene Laundries.

Apologizing to the women and girls of the Magdalene Laundries, he told parliament that they deserved “the compassion and recognition for which they have fought for so long, deservedly so deeply.”

He said he hoped “it would help us make amends in the state’s role in the hurt of these extraordinary women.”

Kenny also announced a governnment-funded memorial to remember the 10,000 Magdalene women.

The apology was accompanied by the announcement of a fresh compensation package for about 800 women still alive who were held in the laundries across Ireland.

The compensation deal is to include counseling services, healthcare and individual payments, which Dublin hopes can be implemented without the involvement of lawyers and hefty legal bills.