Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has promised to deliver an apology on behalf of the state to survivors of Magdalene laundries run by religious orders following a meeting with a representative organization on Monday.
This follows his speech in the Dail (Parliament) last week when he declined to apologize for the state’s role in admitting women to the laundries which were run mainly by nuns.
Members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group spent three hours with Kenny and Tanaiste (deputy leader) Eamon Gilmore this week.
They said they believe the apology will be delivered next Tuesday when a debate on former Senator Martin McAleese’s report on the Magdalene laundries’ workers begins in the Dail.
McAleese, husband of former President Mary McAleese, in his 1,000-page report after an 18-month inquiry, condemned state involvement in the laundries in which 10,000 girls and women, many wrongly branded as fallen, worked. Survivors of the laundries said they worked as slaves.
Magdalene Survivors Together founder Steven O’Riordan, who had requested the meeting on the women’s behalf, said they were very satisfied with what Kenny had said.
Maureen Sullivan, one of six women who met Kenny and Gilmore, was sent to a Magdalene laundry in New Ross, Co Wexford, at the age of 12, after suffering from abuse. She said that Kenny had told her that he believed her story.
“Now all we ask for is two words -- I’m sorry. Our healing process can only take place when there’s a state apology. I think he found that very important,” said Sullivan.
Marina Gambold, 77, was orphaned when she was eight after both her parents died. She lived with her grandmother for a couple of years but when she was 16 she had nowhere to go and a priest referred her to the Magdalene laundries.
She said she did not bear any bitterness about what had happened, and praised the compassionate response of Kenny and Gilmore to their stories.
She added, “I thought they were lovely people, the two of them. I said to them that I hope God will guide you to do the right thing.”
She said Kenny was “very nice and very kind and we all cried a tear.”
Fianna Fail TD John Browne, who has met survivors in New Ross, said his party was keeping the issue on top of the agenda.
“It’s our duty as an opposition to keep it to the forefront and make sure a decision is made quickly,” he added.