Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Magdalene survivors finally get a hearing

A group of survivors from the infamous Magdalene Laundries said they fear they will be "dead and forgotten" in a few years' time and before the Irish state formally apologises for the hardship they suffered.

The 15 women from Magdalene Survivors Together appeared before an inter-departmental committee headed by Senator Martin McAleese at Leinster House in Dublin yesterday.

One of those present was Kathleen Legg (77), who travelled from England to tell her story.

She was born to an unmarried mother and was raised by her grandparents in Co Tipperary until her grandmother died. She was 14-years-old when her mother brought her to St Mary's Training Centre on Stanhope Street in Dublin.

"She assumed I'd carry on my education there, but I was put straight to work in the laundry," she recalled.

She lived on a diet of bread and margarine and a cup of tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner and at 5ft 10ins tall weighed just six stone.

Kathleen was 18 when she finally escaped and joined the Royal Air Force in Britain as a medic.

"I've never had a penny in compensation. I'm nearly 80, my health is pretty bad and I've an incurable lung condition. In a few years' time I'll be dead and we'll all be dead and forgotten.

"Some money now will make our last years a bit easier," she said.

Steven O'Riordan, the director of 'The Forgotten Maggies', said the women have been waiting for justice all their lives and yesterday was the first time they were able to give their testimony in person before the committee.

He said Mr McAleese had listened compassionately to their stories. "Today I feel we brought the human element to it. Up until now the committee had been dealing with statistics and facts that can be quite cold."

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