WP condemn failure to apologise to Magdalene survivors

The Workers’ Party has labelled the failure of the Taoiseach or any senior government minister to offer a full apology to the inmates of the Magdalene Laundries as utterly reprehensible.

Mary Diskin, justice and equality spokesperson for the Workers Party, stated: “The McAleese Report makes very clear that over 25% of all inmates of the laundries for which clear records can be established were sent there directly by the State or State agencies. All the laundries, and therefore all the women, were subject to the various Factories Acts and these institutions were inspected by officials from the relevant Department. Furthermore, while we are all aware of the total lack of educational provision for children with intellectual disability in Ireland up to the 1960s, it is still incomprehensible that, as it now transpires, young women with seriously low intellectual ability were committed to these institutions”.


“The Workers Party finds it most regrettable that two of the Magdalene Laundries, including Galway, could not be included in the study leading to this report. Further work should be carried out to ensure that the truth about these institutions also sees the light of day. We also regret that the terms of reference of the McAleese Committee specifically excluded certain institutions, including the Stanhope St laundry. While these institutions may have been designated as educational it is clear from survivors that they were imbued with, and operated along, the Magdalene laundry model.”


“The Taoiseach cannot now act in some Pontius Pilate fashion and wash his hands of the past and apologise in a mealy mouthed fashion for the “stigma or isolation” these women felt. The Magdalene Laundries continued in existence until 1996, twenty years after the Taoiseach became TD and indeed while he was a Junior Minister in the rainbow Coalition.”


“I find it incomprehensible that the McAleese Report concludes that the Magdalene Laundries were not profitable operations. These laundries were run as commercial enterprises by orders of nuns with commercial expertise and with access to the highest quality expert advice. The laundries operated in the open market but with the advantage of a zero wages bill, minimal subsistence costs for staff, and a 6-day, 12 hour working week. Only one of two conclusions is possible. Either full financial records were not kept or else, either deliberately or by omission, were not disclosed to the McAleese Committee”.


“I also find it amazing that both the McAleese Report, as well as the Taoiseach and his ministers, have emphasised that there were no findings of sexual or physical abuse being perpetrated on these women. In the first instance the Taoiseach and the committee must have a very narrow interpretation of physical abuse. Does forced labour, subsistence meals, confinement to cell-like bedrooms not constitute physical abuse? And how can the media, including the state media, in the course of one day find a number of women who were physically beaten and still carry the scars and yet the Taoiseach and his ministers are unaware of this reality.”


“Both yesterday, and today in the Dáil, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, and the Junior Minister at the Department of Health all had an opportunity to redeem the reputation of this state and apologise to the Magdalene Women for their appalling treatment. They had the chance to guarantee that these women would get full state pensions, proper medical care, and that a compensation scheme would be initiated. Deliberately and repeatedly all three refused to take this course. This cannot wait for a Dáil debate in several weeks time. Either the government takes the honourable course of action or stand indicted for all time of condoning abuse that endured for the first 75 years of the existence of this state”.

Issued: Wed 6th February 2013.

Peace, Work, Democracy and Class Politics