A YEAR AGO, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made an emotional address to survivors from the Magdalene laundries in Ireland.
In his speech, Kenny said the government and the citizens of Ireland “deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them”.
Today, the call has been made for the government to take action on legislation relating to the apology.
JFM Research called for the State to begin immediate work on the Magdalene Laundries restorative justice scheme earlier this month.
It said that survivors have still not obtained the redress called for by the UN Committee Against Torture, and that it is “gravely concerned” by “unacceptable additional delays”.
Today, JFM Research noted that Minister Alan Shatter confirmed “that less than half the women have got their money, none have got their pensions or health benefits”.
The delays are of deep concern given the age of the women and that many are in declining health. We are aware legislation is pending but needs to be acted on as soon as possible. The women should not have to wait. Many are finding it difficult to engage support in obtaining their records.
They also said that the government’s provision of compensation and benefits “is not a substitute for establishing the truth of what happened in the laundries”.
Contrary to the Minister’s statement, the McAleese Committee only ever established the facts of state involvement. The nuns have not apologised, nor will they contribute to the compensation fund. There can be no restorative justice without an admission of wrongdoing.
The National Women’s Council said today that it is calling on the State “to deliver on its promises to provide full restorative justice for the surviving women without further delay”.
Rachel Doyle, head of outreach at the NWCI, said one year on from the Taoiseach’s apology, “many of the women are yet to receive a penny”.
Some women have received offer letters detailing their lump sum and weekly payment entitlements, yet this Government has failed to deliver on the promise of pensions and healthcare benefits, as well as all other elements of restorative justice called for by Justice Quirke.
Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI, described it as “unacceptable” that these women “have still not received the justice called for by the United Nations Commission Against Torture, and promised by the Taoiseach himself”.
Enda Kenny must offer clarity on the status of survivors living outside Ireland and those whose duration of stay records are not available.
The NWCI is now calling on the Taoiseach to put a definitive timeline in place for the passing of legislation “to ensure the State provides these women with the justice they deserve”.
Women survivors whose lives in and outside of the laundries were and continue to be characterised by physical and psychological suffering, poverty and stigma should not have to deal with further suffering brought on by additional delays.
Doyle noted that at least three survivors have died and two others have experienced repeated hospitalisations in the year since the apology. “Full justice must be delivered to these women as a matter of urgency,” she said.
Earlier this month, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the Justice Minister Alan Shatter to clarify when legislation will be introduced to provide health services to the Magdalene survivors.