Maureen Sullivan, who worked in a 'Magdalene Laundry',
wipes a tear during a 'Magdalene Survivors Together' news
conference in Dublin. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been criticised by
members of his own government for not issuing the state apology
sought by ex-inmates of the notorious Magdalene Laundries
following a damning report.
More than a quarter of the women and girls subjected to harsh
discipline and unpaid work at the 10 laundries, run by
Catholic nuns, were sent there by the Irish state, an
official report that ran to almost 1,000 pages said on
Tuesday (local time).
The laundries have been accused of treating inmates like
"slaves" for decades of the 20th century, imposing a regime
of fear and prayer on girls sometimes put in their care for
simply falling pregnant outside wedlock. One in 10 inmates
died in care, the youngest at 15.
Kenny said on Wednesday that he was sorry for the women who
had to live in such conditions but again stopped short of a
full state apology, further angering groups representing
women who were housed in laundries as recently as 1996.
He said the government needed time to consider the report
before it was debated in parliament in two weeks' time - but
members of Kenny's junior coalition partner Labour, including
a junior minister, said an apology was needed far sooner.
"The government will make that decision and I don't sit
around the cabinet table, but my personal opinion is that
there should be an apology," Kathleen Lynch, junior minister
with responsibility for the elderly, told Today FM radio.
"The stigma that has been attached to these women, the blight
it has been on their lives, there's nothing to be proud of
here. You can say that everyone suffered in the 50s, yeah,
but some suffered more than others."
Lynch was referring to Kenny's comments in parliament on
Tuesday when he said the laundries, described in the report
as lonely and frightening places, had to be seen in the
context of an Ireland that was an uncompromising and
"STUFF YOUR APOLOGY"
Criticism of Kenny also dominated the front pages of
Wednesday's newspapers alongside details from the report. The
Irish Sun's headline read "Stuff Your Apology", while the
Irish Daily Mail simply asked "Why Can't You Say Sorry?"
Irish governments had in the past denied blame, emphasising
the laundries were private institutions, but the report
concluded there was "significant state involvement".
The matter of an apology was raised by Labour lawmakers at
the parliamentary party's weekly meeting on Wednesday. One
Labour member of parliament, Dominic Hannigan, said the
government needed to be seen to take responsibility.
"I think it's time for an apology, people have been waiting a
long, long time for this," he told national broadcaster RTE.
Labour leader and Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore is
likely to come under pressure to apologise in parliament when
he takes leaders' questions on Thursday, with opposition
parties also calling on the government to meet survivors'
appeals for compensation for their treatment in the
Unlike other harrowing reports where priests were found to
have beaten and raped children in Catholic-run institutions,
no allegations of sexual or physical abuse were made against
the nuns at the laundries, Tuesday's report said.
But former inmates spoke of an uncompromising regime of
physically demanding work and prayer enforced by scoldings
The report's findings follow investigations into clerical sex
abuse and state-abetted cover-ups that have shattered the
authority of the church in Ireland and rocked the Catholic
Church's reputation worldwide.