I am furious. Absolutely furious. Over a week ago, the Justice for Magdalenes organization issued a press release to all of the major newspapers and media in Ireland as well as to all members and parties of government (full press release is shown below). We challenged the compartmentalised, two-tiered response by the Irish state towards institutional abuse that results in survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, many of them children at the time, once again being ignored under the 2002 Redress Act.
Specifically we asked that the Minister for Children investigate the plight of children (which we now have mounting evidence that some were as young as 11 years old) who were placed directly into Magdalene Laundries. Their applications to the Residential Redress Board are routinely rejected because “the Applicant had not established that she was resident in an institution covered by the Act or any Order made thereunder.”
Not one media outlet or newspaper or government official responded or publicised the press release. Not one.
For fourteen years, since the inception of the original Magdalene Memorial Committee (which morphed into Justice for Magdalenes in the late 1990’s), we have fought a Sisyphean battle to seek justice for the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries. Yet it would appear the media (and perhaps the public) are more interested in viewing again and again the ‘exoticness’ of survivor trauma – the gut-wrenching stories of misery these women were subjected to, often far worse than prisons. How much more does the public need to see or hear before they take action?
We challenge Irish society to stop clamouring for the tragic stories, watching and reading as if bystanders at a car wreck scene, and stand up for the abrogated rights of these women. Take action and write your local TD. Tell them you support the cause of justice for Magdalene survivors – a decent pension for the unpaid labour they performed, a public apology from all the religious orders responsible for their incarceration, an investigation of the illegally unreported deaths at High Park Convent and the equally illegally exhumed bodies moved from those grounds, and acknowledgement that the fabled land of ‘saints and scholars’ was complicit in not ‘cherishing children’ equally and treating women as something less than human.
Press Release: 29 July, 2009
Justice for Magdalenes committee calls on Government to provide redress for Magdalene survivors
Justice for Magdalenes welcomes the publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009: Implementation Plan, and we look forward to witnessing the immediate implementation of the ninety-nine measures outlined therein.
However, we challenge the compartmentalised, two-tiered response by the Irish state towards institutional abuse that results in survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, many of them children at the time, once again being ignored.
Specifically we ask that the Minister for Children investigate the plight of children (which we now have mounting evidence that some were as young as 11 years old) who were placed directly into Magdalene Laundries. Their applications to the “Residential Redress Board” are routinely rejected because “the Applicant had not established that she was resident in an institution covered by the Act or any Order made thereunder.”
“The fact that these children were never committed to a residential institution (e.g., an industrial or reformatory school) is immaterial,” said Justice for Magdalenes spokesperson Mari Steed, whose mother was a Magdalene. “The fact that a family member signed these children into the ‘care’ of the nuns does not obviate the state’s responsibility for their welfare. These children were and are citizens of the state and they deserved to be cherished. Yet increasingly we’re discovering they were all but ‘invisibly’ moved between residential institutions and Magdalene Laundries, with little or no record maintained by the religious orders or Departments of Health, Education, Children or Justice,” she added.
Children’s Minister Barry Andrews in his remarks insisted that Irish people no longer show deference towards the Catholic Church. But the government maintains precisely the same deferent attitude towards the religious congregations that operated the nation’s Magdalene Laundries, i.e., the Good Shepherd Sisters, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, and Mercy Sisters. No one has apologised. No one held accountable. And the core issue is still liability and the State’s evasion of all financial responsibility for institutions they continue to view as “private” and “voluntary.” This deference is also clear in the government’s dismissal of claims submitted by non-Catholic survivors of such institutions as the Bethany Home. JFM demands that the Minister for Children introduce amending legislation whereby survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, regardless of how they entered such institutions, are provided with redress and reparation for their abusive childhoods, the unpaid labour they performed and the abrogation of their civil and human rights.
Furthermore, JFM demands that the Minister for Justice introduce legislation for a distinct redress scheme for survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries as outlined by JFM and submitted to all politicians in Dáil Éireann on July 3 (copy attached).
Justice for Magdalenes seeks to promote and represent the interests of the Magdalene Women, to respectfully promote equality and seek justice for the women formerly incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries and to seek the establishment / improvements of support/advisory/re-integration services provided for survivors.