TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has stopped short of apologising for the State’s involvement in the Magdalene Laundries.
In a heated exchange in the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach repeatedly said he was sorry that the stigma attached to the women in the laundries was not removed before now.
He also apologised for the length of time it had taken for a government to carry out a report into the institutions and said he was sorry that the women lived “in that kind of environment”.
The long-awaited report by Senator Martin McAleese into the laundries was published at 4pm. The report has found the Irish State was directly and fundamentally involved in the laundries.
Survivors of the laundries say they were unhappy with the Taoiseach’s initial response.
“That is not an apology,” Maureen Sullivan said.
“This is not acceptable. It is a cop out,” Stephen O’Riordan, spokesperson for Magdalene Survivors Together said.
The Taoiseach was responding to questions from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald who described the laundries as an Irish form of slavery and asked when the Taoiseach would be offering a full apology to the survivors.
In response, Enda Kenny said that the thousand-page report needs to be read in full before reacting to it. He said he plans to hold a Dáil debate on the report in two weeks.
The Taoiseach repeatedly emphasised the ways in which women entered the laundries, noting that 10 per cent of women were sent to one by their family while 19 per cent of women entered themselves. He said that the report reflected Ireland between the 1920s and 1950s which was a “harsh and uncompromising and authoritarian” country.
The Taoiseach said that the State was responsible for making or facilitating 26.5 per cent of admissions to the laundries.
Mary Lou McDonld told the Taoiseach that the women in the laundries were not “residents voluntarily offering their labour [but] young, vulnerable women” who believed themselves to be imprisoned.
Additional reporting by Sinead O’Carroll