Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Taoiseach in tears during apology

Women from Madalene Survivors Together leaving Leinster House in Dublin after hearing Taoiseach Enda Kenny's state apology
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to make a statement in response to the Magdalene laundries report

The Taoiseach broke into tears as he made an historic and emotionally charged state apology to survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

There was a sustained standing ovation after Enda Kenny described the Catholic-run workhouses as the "nation's shame", accepting the state's direct involvement. And politicians applauded the weeping women as they watched on, finally vindicated after years of struggling.

"I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the state, the Government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry," Mr Kenny said.

Twenty women who were locked up in one of the laundries watched with bated breath from the public gallery. They sat united with their hands held tightly and wept as the Taoiseach made his tearful apology. Maureen Sullivan, who was 12 when she was sent to a Magdalene laundry when her father died, said Mr Kenny had given survivors their lives back.

"He didn't hold back on anything," Ms Sullivan said. "He really did us proud. Now we can go on with our lives and we know that we've got an apology, and he's taken responsibility. It's just fantastic."

In unprecedented scenes of emotion during the eagerly awaited state apology, Mr Kenny outlined plans to compensate the survivors. He said: "As a society, for many years we failed you. We forgot you or, if we thought of you at all, we did so in untrue and offensive stereotypes. This is a national shame, for which I again say, I am deeply sorry and offer my full and heartfelt apologies."

President of the Law Reform Commission Judge John Quirke has been appointed to take a three-month review and make recommendations on payments to surviving women.

Mr Kenny said money would be given along with other support, such as medical cards, psychological and counselling services, and other welfare needs.

The apology comes two weeks after the publication of a report from former senator Martin McAleese, which revealed that the state was responsible for 24% of all admissions to the laundries - where girls as young as 11 were forced to work unpaid.

The inquiry found that 10,000 women were incarcerated in the workhouses, run by nuns from four religious orders for a myriad of reasons - from petty crime to poverty, disability or pregnancy outside marriage. They were stripped of their names and forced to endure the cold, harsh confines of the monastic institutes.

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