Irish Government Take First Steps in Addressing UN Torture Committee Recommendations on Magdalene Laundries

Feb. 19, 2013 – Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday made a formal apology to the women who were inmates of the Magdalene Laundries run by Catholic nuns from 1922 to 1996.

Women and girls were involuntarily admitted to these institutions, had their names changed, were deprived of an education, were forced to work without pay, and suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture took up their case and made the following recommendations:

“The Committee recommends that the State party (Ireland) should institute prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that were allegedly committed in the Magdalene Laundries, and, in appropriate cases, prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences committed, and ensure that all victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as
possible.”

A Government-commissioned report earlier this month revealed that more than 10,000 women had passed through these institutions from the founding of the state until when the last one closed in 1996.

That report also revealed the Irish State was involved in these laundries in a number of ways: by sending women and girls to the workhouses, by returning runaways, and by paying for the services of the laundries.

When Kenny spoke on Feb. 5 after the release of the report, his lack of an official apology was met with bitter disappointment by the survivors and their families.

On Tuesday, he delivered that apology, saying: “I, as Taoiseach (Prime Minister), on behalf of the state, the Government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry.”

He also said a fund will be established to compensate the women and the Government will contribute funds to the establishment of a national memorial “to remind us all of this dark part of our history.”

Following Kenny’s apology, Samantha Long, whose mother Margaret was an inmate in a Magdalene laundry, tweeted:


- Denis Fitzgerald