Calls for full State apology mount as Shatter asks for time to think

Michael Lavery

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny, pictured, was under increasing pressure today to issue a full State apology.

Survivors expressed their disappointment and anger at the Taoiseach's response to the report's findings.

The issue was due to be raised in the Dail today and at Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary party meetings this evening.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said today the Government needed to reflect on all the information in the report.

The State needed to see what could be done to help individuals whose lives had been "blighted and burdened" by long stays in the laundries, he said.

"It requires careful consideration on how we move forward," Mr Shatter said on RTE's Morning Ireland.

The report was a 'watershed' that cast light on areas in Irish society that had been in shadow, he added.

But Claire McGettrick, spokeswoman for the Justice for Magdalenes group, said politicians like Mr Shatter "had used these women like political footballs while in opposition".


"It is cynical now to come along and refuse to apologise," Ms McGettrick said. The women were "used" by politicians while they were in opposition, she said.

The group said the Taoiseach's Dail statement fell "far short of the full and sincere apology deserved by the women who were incarcerated against their will".

The Labour Women group, said an apology was something the entire nation owed to the Magdalene women.

"The Magdalene Laundries did not operate in secrecy," the group said.

"Their existence was not challenged. An apology should be something the entire nation owes to the Magdalene girls and women," a spokesperson said.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was deeply disappointed by the Government's response.

"What went on in the Magdalene Laundries was a very Irish form of slavery," she said.

The report established that the State was complicit in holding women, she added.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins also expressed disappointment.

Mr Collins said the investigation should have been carried out before now, "and in my view it was a mistake not to extend the Ryan Commission to these institutions".

"The survivors of the Magdalene Laundries and their families have been waiting for far too long for an unreserved apology from the State and some form of redress for what they went through.


"I am surprised and deeply disappointed that they are still waiting for this today.

"Instead, the Taoiseach and the Justice Minister have appeared to almost downplay what happened, emphasising the number of people who were in the laundries for less than a year and stopping short of a full apology and commitment to redress."

The tone set by the Government was in stark contrast to the comments of Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, Alan Shatter, Kathleen Lynch and others in opposition, he said.

"Everyone is united in the belief that the stigma that many of these women feel is unjustified, and while it is important to make this point, it should not be the focus of Government's response. "

"What happened in the Magdalene Laundries was wrong and we as a country need to acknowledge this and apologise," Mr Collins said.

Barnado's chief executive Fergus Finlay said the women "suffered appalling and shaming injustices, often for the whole of their lives".

A debate on the report will take place in the Oireachtas in two weeks' time.