Irish Government Will Officially Apologize to Victims of the Magdalene Laundries

by Katrina Pallop

The “Maggies” in 1950s Dublin

The Irish government has changed its tune about offering an apology to victims of the Magdalene Laundries. These institutions, operated by Catholic nuns, incarcerated up to 10,000 women from 1922 to 1996. Since the last laundry was shuttered, survivors and advocates have been demanding an official apology from the state, as well as compensation for wages, pensions, and healthcare. 

For the last decade or so, these demands have gone unanswered by the government. But a new report that details the state’s involvement with the laundries, compiled by Senator Martin McAleese, has changed everything. According to the new information, a quarter of the women who were sent to the laundries were referred by the state. Laundries were also given lucrative contracts with the Irish armed forces, among other groups, without offering fair wages to their enslaved workers. Unwed mothers, orphans, victims of sexual or physical abuse, and the disabled were the most likely women to be incarcerated by the Magdalene Laundry system, and those who attempted to escape were often apprehended and returned by police.  

In light of chilling new details about the torturous conditions of the laundries, Irish premier Enda Kenny will issue an official state apology to the thousands of victims. The Irish government has been criticized by advocacy and human rights groups like Amnesty International for turning a blind eye to the needs of women who were forced to labor in the laundries, many of whom are still alive. Nearly 800 women will now receive compensation for their time in these institutions, which will help to cover counseling and healthcare. 

Though the state’s apology came later than most would have liked, the fact that victims will start to see some support and compensation now is at least a brighter chapter in the dark history of the Magdalene Laundries.

Source: The Guardian

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