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Taoiseach set to give state apology to victims of Magdalene Laundries

THOUSANDS of women who survived the Magdalene Laundries are expected to receive a state apology from the Government today.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to make a statement two weeks after a report revealed 10,000 women were incarcerated in institutions run by nuns for a myriad of reasons from petty crime to poverty, disability or pregnancy outside marriage.

Twenty women who were locked up in one of the laundries will attend a Dail debate to witness first hand the anticipated apology.

Representative group Magdalene Survivors Together is also hoping to hear details of a compensation scheme.

Spokesman Steven O'Riordan said the women, most of whom feel too stigmatised to speak publicly, are optimistic Mr Kenny will also acknowledge women detained in other institutions similar to laundries but classed as training units.

"Magdalene Survivors Together are extremely confident that the Taoiseach will in some way extend the apology," Mr O'Riordan said.

The group has called for compensation in the form of a nominal payment of €50,000 for incarceration and an €20,000 for every year spent in detention to make up for lost wages.

The Government has not confirmed to the women or their representatives whether they will be compensated.

But ministers have suggested a comprehensive package of measures would be produced to meet the women's needs on a case by case basis.

The apology follows the publication of a report from former senator Martin McAleese, which revealed that the state was responsible for 24% of all admissions to the laundries - where girls as young as 11 were forced to work unpaid.

The inquiry found that 10,000 women were incarcerated in the workhouses, run by nuns from four religious orders, for a myriad of reasons - from petty crime, fleeing the institutes, foster families no longer receiving state allowances and others who were orphaned, abused, mentally or physically disabled, homeless or poor.

The last laundry closed in 1996, at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin's north inner city.

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Elsewhere, advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes has insisted that any compensation package unveiled following the debate in the Dail parliament should include pensions, healthcare and counselling, as well as housing services and advice.

It called for a benchmark €100,000 lump sum as compensation for survivors - on top of a pension package and money for lost earnings.

Last week, Mr Kenny met a number of survivors to personally hear their stories after facing fierce criticism for not offering a state apology immediately after the McAleese report was published.

The women said he was visibly moved by their accounts and that they appreciated him giving his time.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has backed calls for a transparent reparations and restorative justice scheme for survivors, without exception.

Mark Kelly, ICCL director, said the Taoiseach had baulked at the first opportunity to apologise.

"We trust that, over the last fortnight, the Taoiseach has had sufficient time to digest the full magnitude of the state's responsibilities to survivors and that he will discharge his duty to apologise properly," he said.

"A full and frank apology by the Taoiseach must be followed swiftly by a transparent scheme to compensate victims for the damage that they have suffered during and after their time in the Magdalene laundries."

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