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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 24 October, 2014

Magdalene survivors “shocked and upset” by nun interview defending laundries

In an interview aired last night, two anonymous nuns defended the Magdalene laundries and said religious orders had no need to apologise.

Magdalene survivors, including Maureen Sullivan second from left, outside Leinster House after the apology by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in February
Magdalene survivors, including Maureen Sullivan second from left, outside Leinster House after the apology by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in February
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE YOUNGEST MAGDALENE laundries survivor has spoken out against comments by two nuns who defended the institutions in an interview aired last night.

Maureen Sullivan of the Magdalene Survivors Together Group told TheJournal.ie: “I think they [the nuns] are stopping the women from healing. The women were starting to heal and forgive but now it’s going to be very difficult for them.”

An interview with the two unnamed nuns who were involved in running the laundries, dubbed Sister A and Sister B, featured on RTÉ Radio 1 programme The God Slot last night. When asked about an apology from the religious orders, Sister A said: “Apologise for what? Apologise for providing a service?” Later in the interview one of the sisters said:

It’s easier for these women to blame the nuns than blame their mammy or their daddy.

The interview was read on air under the condition that the sisters and their order were not revealed – which Sullivan said was a sign that the nuns were hiding again.

She called on Sister A and Sister B to “say sorry for what they’ve said”.

This is the first time that individual nuns from the religious orders involved in the Magdalene laundries have spoken about their views on the McAleese Report.

Speaking about the issue of the money earned by the laundries, Sister B said that any money the laundry made went into food and housing: “We have always lived very frugal lives. The money went into feeding them [the women who worked in the laundries]“.

Sullivan disputes this. “They didn’t feed us, they fed themselves,” she said. “They lived in warmth and ate comfort food. We didn’t. We kept them actually and I think they owe us.”

During the interview Sister A elaborated on the issue of money, saying: “The laundry was a way to make a living and keep a roof over their heads”. She also said that the possible figure of €200,000 in compensation for survivors would be “excessive”.

Sullivan pointed out that the religious orders have plenty of money. “We were horrified about [the interview] but in a way we’re not surprised because I think the Government was going to ask them to contribute,” she said. “This is about money.”

In a statement, Magdalene Survivors Together said the group was “shocked, horrified and enormously upset” by how the nuns portrayed the laundries.

Read: Magdalene women remembered in vigils in Dublin and Galway >

Read: Nearly 800 inquiries about Magdalene Laundries fund >

Read: Kenny ‘deeply regrets and apologises unreservedly’ to Magdalene women in emotional speech >

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