Magdalene survivors urge Coalition to deliver on promises
Published 20/01/2015 | 02:30
Dubliner Martina Keogh spent almost two years in two different Magdalene laundry homes when she was a young woman.
She is supporting a coalition of groups who are calling on the Government to fully implement all the recommendations made by Mr Justice John Quirke in the restorative redress scheme, particularly in relation to healthcare.
The group, which includes Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR), the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International, claims the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill is an “unacceptable paring back of what the Government promised”.
Maeve O’Rourke, from JFMR, said the bill promises little more than the regular medical card, “which most of the women already have.”
Survivors want a card giving them access to a full range of health services, similar to the HAA cards issued to women infected with Hepatitis C through infected blood products.
Ms Keogh said: “I am hoping the Taoiseach will give us that card so we can get better treatment. I think they should stand up and deliver what they promised us.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice last night said: “The Magdalene women will receive an enhanced medical card on the same lines as the HAA card. Under this legislation, GP, prescription medicines, nursing, home help, dental, ophthalmic, aural, counselling, chiropody and physiotherapy services will be made available by the HSE free of charge.”
Outrage expressed at provisions of Magdalene Bill
Advocates for women say Bill is unacceptable paring back of redress package promises
Patsy McGarry Mon, Jan 19, 2015, 19:55
The draft legislation to assist survivors of Magdalene laundries has been described as “unacceptable, unfair and full of broken promises” by advocacy groups.
Advocates for the women say the Bill published last month represents an unacceptable paring back of what the Government promised as part of the women’s redress package.
After Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s apology to the Magdalene women last year, Mr Justice John Quirke was tasked with designing a restorative justice scheme, which the Government accepted.
The Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill, published last month, proposes the women be entitled to GP care, prescription medicines, nursing and home-help as well as dental, ophthalmic, aural, counselling, chiropody and physiotherapy services provided by the HSE.
This was described at the press conference as “an obvious and unacceptable paring back” on what Justice Quirke recommended, as well as possibly being open to legal challenge.
It was also claimed that of approximately €60 million allocated for spending on redress for the woman, just €18 million had been spent so far.
Dr Katherine O’Donnell of Justice for Magdalene Research (JFMR) said the Bill represented “a massive claw back” on the Quirke recommendations. She felt it may be open to legal challenge as, on receiving redress, women signed a waiver agreeing not to sue the State. This was on the understanding all the Quirke recommendations would be fulfilled, she said.
“Justice Quirke could not have been clearer in recommending that each woman should receive a card entitling her to the full range of health services provided to state-infected Hepatitis-C survivors under the HAA card scheme,” said Maeve O’Rourke, of JFMR.
“Instead, the Bill promises little more than the regular medical card, which most of the women [91 per cent] already have.”
She said 14 per cent of the women were over 80, while the average age of the approximately 500 involved was 70, 66 per cent of them with serious health issues.
The Bill also failed to provide care representatives for Magdalene women in nursing homes whose full capacity to address their affairs may be limited, or to implement fully the recommendations on the women’s pension entitlements.
Orla O’Connor, of the National Women’s Council, said the Bill was “a further denial of the rights of women survivors of the Magdalene laundries”.
Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman described the Bill as “outrageous” and asked “what did the Taoiseach apologise for?” He described Government assertions that the interdepartmental McAleese inquiry was “a comprehensive investigation” of the laundries as “shocking”.
‘Enhanced’ medical card
Responding to the criticism, a Department of Justice spokesman said the women would “receive an enhanced medical card on the same lines as the HAA card”.
On the women with reduced capacity, he said this was being dealt with through separate legislation expected to be enacted in the first half of this year.
He also said: “Justice Quirke’s recommendation regarding top-up pension-type payments is being fully implemented.”
Magdalene survivor: ‘They’re ignoring my basic human rights’
Former residents say Government has failed to implement necessary health measures
Sorcha Pollak Mon, Jan 19, 2015, 19:49
Diane Croghan was 13 years old when she climbed inside a laundry van to escape the Sisters of Mercy Training School in Summerhill, Co Wexford.
After more than three years of isolation, hard work and abuse at the Magdalene laundry at Summerhill, Diane decided to run away to Dublin.
“It was dreadful, we weren’t allowed to speak with one another,” she says. “I think we worked from 7am-7pm but I’m not sure. We didn’t know the time, we had nothing to show us what time it was.”
After Diane escaped she found work as a domestic servant in Ballsbridge in Dublin. She later worked as a waitress in the Shelbourne hotel.
Diane’s testimony of the three years she spent working at Summerhill has been rejected by the Department of Justice reparation scheme for former residents of Magdalene laundries.
The financial compensation she received under the restorative justice scheme was based on information provided by the Sisters of Mercy Religious order, which claimed she had only spent five months at the Wexford laundry, between April and September 1956. According to Diane, by 1956 she was already living and working in Dublin.
“I felt like I was a liar; that I was trying to claim for years I wasn’t there and that’s not true. I accepted what they said because I took a stroke and I said no money would repay my good health,” she says. “I felt I was being punished. I was bullied into accepting it, so I accepted it.”
Elizabeth Coppin from Listowel, in Co Kerry, is also unhappy with the Government’s failure to respond to Mr Justice John Quirke’s recommendations for survivors of Magdalene laundries.
Elizabeth spent four years between two Magdalene Laundries in Cork and one in Waterford between the ages of 15 and 19. She spent the first 15 years of her life in an industrial school in Tralee.
“You were locked in a cell, treated like you were in prison,” she says, describing the laundries. “They cut my hair and changed all our names. Nobody knew anybody by their proper name.”
“We’re talking about trafficking. They exploited us as vulnerable young children. Most of us were underage.”
In August 2014, Elizabeth wrote to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar asking whether she was entitled to a Health (Amendment) Act 1996 Card (HAA card) following the Government’s commitment to accept all recommendations in Justice Quirke’s report.
The report states HAA cards should be given to “each of the women who were admitted to and worked in a designated Magdalene laundry”.
Four months later, on December 23rd, a response arrived from Mr Varadkar’s private secretary which said: “Judge Quirke did not recommend that a medical card would issue to participants of the ex gratia scheme”.
“For me, they’re saying again that I don’t matter,” says Elizabeth. “Again they’re ignoring my basic human rights. I had to wait four months to get that hidden, sneaky answer.
“I bet you all those people in Government are getting their full pension and expenses, yet the Irish women are still being deprived of their entitlements. To me that’s disgusting.”
Elizabeth believed Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he apologised in 2013 on behalf of the State to the women who endured suffering in the Magdalene laundries. However, she says he’s gone back on his word.
“I was taken up with the moment of the idea of an apology. On reflection it couldn’t be genuine because they’ve reneged on Judge Quirke’s recommendations. I really believed it … but now I just feel that it was all a drama. He has let us down very badly.”
Laundries survivor: We were slaves
5 February 2013
From the link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21334882
A report published today is expected to detail Irish government knowledge of what went on in Magdalene Laundries.
The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses that operated in Ireland from the 1920s to the mid-1990s.
Girls considered “troubled” or what were then called “fallen women” were sent there by families or the courts.
Ellen Murphy, a survivor of the Magdalene Laundries, told the Today programme’s John Humphrys that she was put to work using large washing machines.
“You had to do that or die with starvation,” she explained.
Speaking of her restrictive ordeal at the Laundries, Ms Murphy said: “You never went out, you were locked in all the time… you never saw the world.”
“We were slaves from one end of the day to the other,” she added.
Roman Catholic Horrors: Magdalene Launderies and Asylums
Catholic Church enslaved 30,000 Irish women as forced unpaid labor in Magdalene Laundries until 1996
Catholic Church enslaved 30,000 Irish women as forced unpaid labor in Magdalene Laundries until 1996
2/6/2013 8:00am by Myrddin
What a horrific story. The Irish Prime Minister gave a partial apology today for the government’s role in a 74-year scandal in which, a new official government report says, over 10,000 women were forced to work without pay at commercial laundries called Magdalene Laundries, operated by the Catholic Church for “crimes” as small as not paying a train ticket.
In Northern Ireland, a parellel investigation is currently under way, although it, oddly, is so far refusing to include that country’s Magdalene Laundries in the investigation.
Wikipedia notes that the estimate of the number of women who were used as forced slave labor by the Catholic Church in Ireland alone goes as high as 30,000 over the entire time the Magdalene laundries were in operation.
The last Magdalene laundry closed in 1996.
Women were locked in, couldn’t leave Magdalene Laundries for months, sometimes years
The women were locked in and not permitted to leave. And if they tried to get away, the cops would catch them and bring them back. They were quite literally Catholic slave labor working for the government and even Guinness, which would pay the laundries for the women’s slave labor.
Half of the girls enslaved in these Catholic Church prisons were under the age of 23. The youngest entrant was 9 years old.
Singer Sinead O’Connor was perhaps the most famous Magdalene Laundry slave
Singer Sinead O’Connor was forced to work in a Magdalene Laundry in Dublin:
When I was a young girl, my mother — an abusive, less-than-perfect parent — encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored “Magdalene laundries,” which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests’ clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.
No apology from the Catholic Church
Absent from any of the media reports on the scandal that I could find was an apology from the Catholic Church which operated the Magdalene laundries and made handsome profits from contracts with government and hotels. Oh, found one. It seems the Catholic Church blew the women off. I know, you’re as surprised as I am:
Victims of the child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Irish Catholic Church have received an apology and compensation, but no one has taken responsibility for what happened in the laundries. Cardinal Sean Brady, the most senior Catholic cleric in Ireland, met with Justice for Magdalenes in 2010. He said “by today’s standards much of what happened at that time is difficult to comprehend” but that it was a matter for the religious orders who ran the laundries to deal with. The religious orders have declined to meet the women.
The Irish Cardinal wasn’t interested in hearing from people who were hurt and abused — if not sexually, certainly physically and mentally, by the Catholic Church. And it’s not the Catholic Church’s fault. Where have we heard that story before?
The laundries were run by nuns, many of whom treated the women sent to work there as slaves:
Senator McAleese’s inquiry found that half of the girls and women put to work in the laundries were under the age of 23 and 40%, more than 4,000, spent more than a year incarcerated.
Fifteen percent spent more than five years in the laundries while the average stay was calculated at seven months.
The youngest death on record was 15, and the oldest 95, the report found.
The Irish state is also implicated in the scandal because the police would take women to the asylums after arresting them for trivial offenses and would return runaways.
The story of the Magdalene laundries shows what happens when an institution — in this case the church and the government — is considered beyond criticism. It probably isn’t a coincidence that the last of the laundries closed in 1996, shortly after the first wave of the Catholic pedophile priest scandals hit Ireland.
Let me reiterate that for a moment. The Catholic Church had slaves as late as 1996.
“It changed me as a person to authority, God forgive me I learned to hate people then”
Here are some of the testimonials of the women who served as forced Catholic slaves. You can find them in the official report:
“The only thing was I had appendicitis and asked [named nun] could I go to bed and she wouldn’t let me”.
Some, but not all women reported that their hair had been cut on entry to the laundry. Some described this as an upsetting and degrading experience.
“T’was the ultimate humiliation for you. It changed me as a person to authority, God forgive me I learned to hate people then”.
One woman said that in the Magdalene Laundry in which she was, “You could write once a month but the nun would read the letters”.
This is one is pure torture:
Another very common grievance of the women who shared their stories with the Committee – particularly those who had previously been in Industrial or Reformatory Schools – was that there was a complete lack of information about why they were there and when they would get out. None of these women were aware of the period of supervision which followed discharge from industrial or reformatory school.
Due to this lack of information and the fact that they had been placed in an institution among many older women, a large number of the women spoke of a very real fear that they would remain in the Magdalene Laundry for the rest of their lives. Even if they left the Laundries after a very short time, some women told the Committee that they were never able to fully free themselves
of this fear and uncertainty.
Victims reject Irish PM’s apology
The victims have rejected the Prime Minster’s “apology,” which does sound somewhat lame:
“To those residents who went into the Magdalene Laundries through a variety of ways, 26pc from state intervention or state involvement, I am sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment,” Mr Kenny said in parliament in Dublin today.
“I want to see that those women who are still with us, anywhere between 800 and 1000 at max, that we should see that the state provides for them with the very best of facilities and supports that they need in their lives.”
Did your defense lawyer write that one up for you?
Here’s Joni Mitchell singing about the Magdalene Laundries:
A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry
One woman tells the story of her mother who was sent to a Laundry in Dublin at the age of 16 – and died there at the age of 51.
THE TREATMENT OF women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries – and the level of State involvement in these Church-run institutions – has been highlighted yet again this month. There was disappointment among survivors and relatives of those kept in the Laundries when it was announced that a State committee’s final report into the matter would be delayed until the end of the year.
To reiterate the urgency of revealing the inter-departmental findings, the Justice for Magdalene advocacy group last week distributed some redacted statements of women detailing their lives in such institutions. (The group claims that there was State involvement in the operation of the Laundries as places to send women considered to be “problem girls”, due to poverty or pregnancy outside marriage for example.)
Samantha Long’s mother Margaret Bullen was placed in Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street) Laundry c.1967 and died 35 years later, never having been released into society and her own home. Margaret died of an illness known as Goodpasture Syndrome, a disease of the kidneys and liver – one of the causes is exposure to industrial-strength chemicals such as those used in the Laundries.
Samantha made a lengthy statement to the interdepartmental committee, led by Senator Martin McAleese, about her mother’s life. Margaret Bullen had a tragic start in life: she was born in a mental institution in Grangegorman, Dublin to a mother who already had six children, Margaret being the youngest. Margaret was sent home to Kimmage to live with her siblings and father, where she remained until she was three years old. At that point, Margaret’s brother was sent to Artane industrial school and Margaret and her sister closest to her in age sent to the notorious High Park industrial school and Laundry in Drumcondra. That, as Samantha says of her mother, “was the end of her and the outside world”.
A second statement sent to Senator McAleese’s committee from a former Laundry inmate who remembers Margaret and her sister recounts how Margaret suffered fits as a young child but that they were ignored by the nuns there (then known as the Sisters of Charity of Refuge, now the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity).
Margaret appears to have been moved in her early teens to a special school called St Teresa’s in Blackrock, after she was certified mentally unfit for education, but fit for work. Her daughter Samantha says in her own statement:
She was assessed at age thirteen as being mentally challenged because on the day that they measured her, they said that she had an IQ of fifty, which I dispute after meeting her, even after all those years of institutionalisation.. And I think that if you’re hungry and tired from your slavery, your IQ wouldn’t be very sharp, or your skills on any given moment mightn’t be sharp. You would be probably just pulled into this room – “now we’re going to measure your IQ” – so even the shock of that wouldn’t, you know, you could shut down.
At roughly the age of 16, Margaret was sent to the Magdalene Laundry at Gloucester Street. The exact time and circumstances of her move there are not clear because Samantha and her sister are still waiting on full records to be supplied to them on their mother’s past.
She became pregnant – twice – with Samantha and her twin sister Etta, and later with another daughter, while officially under the care of the Gloucester Street nuns. The circumstances of these conceptions are again shrouded in mystery but Samantha says her conversations in later life with her mother when they were reunited led her to believe that Margaret had been the victim of sexual abuse and predators several times.
There was no education, no education and I, you know, I honestly believe for a long time she didn’t know how she got pregnant, she just knew that somebody hurt her once and then she had babies. I really believe that. She didn’t make that connection, I know that for sure. She was no, she didn’t have a boyfriend, let’s put it that way. And that’s the politest way that I can say that.
Some of the more harrowing details of Samantha’s testimony recount how her mother was denied society, education, wages and other basic rights for most of her life. This extract recalls Samantha and Etta’s first meeting with Margaret in the Gresham Hotel when they were 23 and had traced her as their biological mother. (Samantha and Etta were adopted by a loving couple in Dublin and later moved to Sligo in childhood.)
Margaret was only 42 at the time but looked much older. She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty, because she didn’t own anything nor did she have any money. Samantha recalls:
And, she was just lovely, and she was asking extremely innocent questions like, she, it was the first time she ever had coffee and it was very exciting for her to have coffee and she hadn’t seen brown sugar before either and obviously in the Gresham there was brown and white sugar cubes on the table and it was all very fancy to her. And she was just overjoyed to be there and absolutely wowed by everything.
She looked, she looked like a pensioner. I couldn’t believe she was forty-two, I kept looking, I kept looking into her face to find a forty-two year old and I couldn’t, because she had the face of hard work, that face that you see in so many women that have just had to work too hard and have never had a rest and have never had anyone to take care of them or tell them to put their feet up, and who have just, just worked too hard. Because, as I said on the radio a few years ago, this was slavery and I don’t use that term lightly and I’m not an emotive person but slavery is a form of work for which you get no pay and you can’t leave and these were the white slaves of Ireland and they were never emancipated. And nobody stood up for them until now, until you guys (Justice for Magdalenes) did.
Samantha Long was asked by Senator McAleese’s commission what she would like the State to do to redress any wrongs committed against the women in Magdalene Laundries. She answered:
I would like the state to apologise for keeping those young girls behind bars, literally and figuratively. I would like the church and state to apologise for forcing them to do slave labour.
I would like the church, the state and society to redress their reputations and apologise for keeping them down, for denying them education, freedom, money, their babies and their lives, all of those things.
And I would like that the circumstances that they find themselves in, through the missing pieces that the rest of us get in life, because they had no education, so how could they make it?
They were sitting ducks, keep them down, keep them unaware of their rights, keep them without money, keep the roof over their head, feed them a little bit, keep them alive, just enough for work. Give them their wages now, give them their wages.
Irish religious orders confirm they will not pay Magdalene Laundry victims
In a completely enraging move, two of the four religious orders that once ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland have again refused to contribute any money toward compensating the surviving women.
Over a year after the Irish Taoiseach (Prime minister) Enda Kenny gave a heartfelt State apology to the tens of thousands of women who had been cruelly incarcerated in Magdalene laundries, the Irish government’s repeated attempts to hold the orders financially accountable have met with blank refusals.
All four orders, which include The Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity have, at various times, publicly refused to contribute financially to the proposed compensation scheme.
According to recent reports in the Irish press, the four orders, which ran the Magdalene laundries, made almost $415 million in property deals during the Irish economic boom. Given those eye-popping figures, the refusal to offer one thin dime in compensation can be seen in its proper light.
It hasn’t quite been two decades since the last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland closed in 1996. That’s well within the living memory of young adults. All those decades of unpaid drudgery, with moral opprobrium added on top, and the orders don’t feel they have a case to answer?
Clearly they are hoping that even now most Irish people would prefer to look the other way – exactly the way they used to when these for-profit gulags were in operation.
Recall that the Irish government had to be brow beaten for years by a group of committed former inmates and their offspring before they finally offered the women a full apology. That apology was only offered in February 2013, by the way.
So the deep Irish reluctance to face up to the legacy of exploitation and widespread physical and sexual abuse within the church has been one of the most remarkable aspects of the now three decade long crisis.
Instead of principled stock-taking, denial, defensiveness and withholding have been the standard responses.
What fascinates me is what happens to a nation that fails to confront its own traumas? Will it hand them on to the next generation without comment? These orders profited for decades from indentured servitude. The women they incarcerated had to pay their own way out.
Now, flush with cash from their extensive property deals, they are withholding all material support from the women they once treated as chattel.
It is estimated that 600 Irish women who were once incarcerated in one of the laundries run by the four orders are still alive. All of them are elderly. The orders may hope that time turns the page on their stories and the nation forgets them. Waiting out the clock, they may be right.
Criminal Good Shepherd Nun exposed but dares to proclaim punishment was forbidden
Saturday May 11,2013
From the link: http://www.vaticancrimes.us/2013/05/criminal-good-shepherd-nun-exposed-but.html