The fallout from the McAleese report into the Magdalene Laundries continues this week as Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Mr. Eamon Gilmore met with Justice for Magdalenes, one of the organisations representing survivors of laundries run by religious orders.
Mr. Kenny and his Government have been under pressure since publication of the report to formally issue a full State apology to those who suffered unimaginable physical and emotional abuse during their years in such institutions. Mr. Kenny finally acquiesed to this request following Monday’s meeting.
It is estimated that there are approximately 1,000 women still alive who were exposed to the horrors of the laundries and for whom the conditions endured could never be erased from their minds. Such was the degree of damage suffered by them that sixty years later, in some cases, the wounds are still indelibly etched in their psyches and they find it impossible to put the experience behind them.
For all whose childhoods were relatively normal it is hard to imagine how conditions endured five or six decades ago could, or should, still evoke such pain and despair. Undoubtedly, life in the those times were entirely different to the conditions of today and it was a far harsher world for all families. In the case of those sent to the Magdalene laundries some parents believed that placing their children in such institutions would prepare them, educationally and emotionally, for the challenges facing them. In other situations families were destitute, again believing that they were doing their best for their children, utterly unaware of the true state of affairs.
It has been established by Senator McAleese that 26.5% of the women in the laundries were sent there through State involvement, though the figure did not take account of those returned by Gardai when they escaped, the financial interactions of the State or official inspections.
The fact remains that thousands of women were scarred forever by their experiences in the Magdalene laundries. They have relived the horrors they endured throughout their lives and they have been unable to escape from the terrible memories of a period which should have been innocent and carefree. It was anything but that.
Full report in this week’s Tipperary Star.