Tuesday 6 December 2016

Eamon Delaney: Bankrupt State left paying for the sins of others

Published 20/02/2013 | 15:30

Justice for Magdalene campaigners Martina Gambold, Maureen O'Sullivan, Mary McGuinness, Kathleen Jeanette, Steven O'Riordan, Geraldine Cronin, and Julie McClure at the Dail
Justice for Magdalene campaigners Martina Gambold, Maureen O'Sullivan, Mary McGuinness, Kathleen Jeanette, Steven O'Riordan, Geraldine Cronin, and Julie McClure at the Dail

It is good that Enda Kenny has made a full apology to the victims of the Magdalene Laundries, as well as financial compensation, and it is good that he took his time to do so and wasn't rushed into it by angry pundits. The reality is that such an apology can have legal implications for the Government and we would not be happy as citizens, and taxpayers, if the Taoiseach had given some blind apology last week that left the State wide open to all sorts of compensation and liability.

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Let us have some perspective here. These were mainly religious, not state, institutions, and yet it is our broke State that has to pick up the tab – yet again. Only a quarter of the laundry survivors were in state care. Most of the laundry survivors were there for less than a year, and the McAleese report found no evidence of sexual or physical abuse. Financial compensation has yet to be decided, but some have been calling for payments of up to €100,000, at which rate the bill could run into hundreds of millions.

Of course there was hardship, but this was the atmosphere of the time, as the Taoiseach himself said. And it is simply ahistorical to condemn the standards of another time by the much improved standards of the present. We may as well condemn the families who put these people into these institutions. Or indeed the families who didn't – and whose children suffered more so as a consequence.

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