In February 2013, Enda Kenny apologized to Magdalene survivors ‘for the hurt that was done to them’.
As in many other cases, these words of sorrow were superficial and there was no genuine attempt to redress wrong.
After its apology, the state deliberately set out to deny that torture or abuse was inflicted on women. It did this in a number of ways:
-It offered an ex gratia payment to Magdalene survivors – but this turned out to be a trick. The payment was accompanied by a denial that the state had any liability for what happened. It even issued a statement to the UN to claim that ‘No factual evidence to support allegations of systematic torture or ill treatment of a criminal nature in these institutions was found’.
In the words of the Justice for Magdalene- “Magdalene survivors have found it impossible to challenge the government’s position and access justice through the civil courts, because the government’s so-called ‘ex gratia’ Scheme for Magdalene survivors requires them to waive all rights of action against the State in exchange for payments and other supports under the Scheme, and because the Statute of Limitations bars their claims”.
-It set up a Commission of Inquiry and requested that religious orders which ran these institutions hand over their records. But it did a deal with the Catholic Church so that copies of these records were destroyed – and the originals were handed back to the very institutions that organised the abuse.
-The McAleese Committee, which conducted an inquiry into what occurred at the Magdalene laundries, gathered a huge amount of evidence. But this has been locked away in the archives of the secretive Department of Justice and is not being made public.
The plain reality is that torture and systematic abuse occurred in these hell holes. But the Irish state is protecting the religious orders who ran them, lest they be sued for their wealth.
Nothing better shows the gross hypocrisy that lies behind the fake liberal image of Fine Gael.
We need a Truth Commission to reveal what happened. All the files of the church and state must be opened to inspection. And the wealth of the orders that ran these institutions should be used to create proper memorial to those who suffered so much.