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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 26 October, 2014

Senator McAleese meets with Magdalene survivors

The Justice for Magdalenes group said that survivors and family members of survivors met with the Senator to discuss state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries.

Senator Martin McAleese pictured outside Leinster House
Senator Martin McAleese pictured outside Leinster House
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

A GROUP OF Magdalene survivors met yesterday with Senator Martin McAleese, husband of former President, Mary McAleese, about State interaction with the Magdalene laundries.

The Justice for Magdalenes group said that a group of surivors in contact with the organisation met with Senator McAleese, who is the Independent Chairperson of the Inter-departmental Committee to “clarify state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries”.

JFM described the meeting as “a deliberately private event, in accordance with the wishes of the women and consistent with the organisation’s ethos to put the dignity and privacy of survivors first”.

Katherine O’Donnell, Director of Women’s Studies at UCD’s School of Social Justice/JFM Advisory Committee said:

As the Magdalene Laundries system served to disempower and silence women, it is vital that survivors actively participate in the Inter-departmental Committee process.  Apart from the vast level of valuable knowledge that survivors possess, it is also essential that those most affected are offered a voice at the table.

Women from all over Ireland travelled to Dublin for the meeting, including the daughters of two women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries who are now deceased.

The JFM said these women “wished to give their mothers a voice as well as highlighting the generational impact on families of the Magdalene Laundry system and the importance of end of life issues”.

Last week JFM submitted its first tranche of testimonies from women. The document amounted to 519 pages and included contributions from a number of the survivors who met with Senator McAleese yesterday.

Claire McGettrick, JFM PRO said that in the testimonies already gathered, all survivors said that they could not leave the laundries, that the doors were locked and the windows inaccessible.

If they did try to leave they were returned by the Gardaí, while others decided not to try to escape because they knew the same fate awaited them.   They all told us they could not complain, in most cases they remarked that there was nobody to complain to; while others begged to leave, often on a daily basis, but all were refused.  Every single survivor confirmed that they were never paid, that no inspections were ever carried out and that no government official ever came to check on them.”

According to James M Smith (Boston College and JFM Advisory Committee) the JFM asserts that there is “ample evidence of state involvement with the Magdalene Laundries to warrant an immediate apology, pensions and restoring lost wages to this group of ageing and elderly women”.

He added: “They need help now while still alive to benefit from it.”

JFM thanked Senator McAleese for agreeing to meet the women.

Last month, the JFM criticised the government for failing to implement the recommendations of a United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). In response, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he would contact the survivors on this matter.

Read: Shatter to write to Magdalene survivors after criticism of State response>

Read: Magdalene survivors criticise ‘unacceptable’ delay for apology and redress>

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