Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Respect plea over Magdalene debate

Campaigners (from left) Marina Gambold, Steven O'Riordan and Maureen Sullivan, of the group Magdalene Survivors Together, leave Leinster House
Campaigners (from left) Marina Gambold, Steven O'Riordan and Maureen Sullivan, of the group Magdalene Survivors Together, leave Leinster House

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called for sensitivity and respect in the handling of a political debate on the Magdalene laundries.

Mr Kenny is expected to make a full state apology to survivors next week when parties discuss findings from an inquiry into the Catholic workhouses.

Tears were shed as six women told the Taoiseach and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore of their time in the laundries and their slave-like regime during a three-hour meeting on Monday.

"I found the meeting yesterday evening absolutely different in its genuineness of these people, the way they spoke, their stories, their personal accounts of their childhoods and their reflections 50 years on," Mr Kenny said.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach accused Fianna Fail of showing "scant respect" to the women and the report, overseen by former senator Martin McAleese, as the opposition party tabled a political motion demanding an apology.

"The complexities and sensitivities range over a great deal of emotions and trauma, and that's what we have to try to reflect in the Dail debate," Mr Kenny said.

"And that the state, in attempting in the best way we can, to bring a conclusion and some degree of fairness and sensitivity to what happened here. That's what I hope we can address."

The Magdalene survivors, who attended the emotionally-charged meeting with Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore, warned they and others like them would not heal properly until they received a full state apology.

Mr Kenny had been accused of a "cop-out" following the publication of the report last week, which highlighted direct state involvement in 24% of the 10,000 admissions to the laundries.

The Taoiseach said he was sorry for what the women and some girls as young as 11 were forced to endure, and the subsequent stigma attached to their imprisonment. But he stopped short of making a full apology on behalf of the state and appealed for more time and space to consider the 1,000-plus page report in full.

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