Dáil debates

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Magdalen Laundries: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]


6:45 pm

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Let me repeat words attributed to Edmund Burke that rang in my head when I was reading the report: "All it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to stand by and do nothing." I found these words very relevant when reading the report.

I thank former Senator McAleese and his colleagues for the work they put into the report and establishing the facts of State involvement in Magdalen laundries.

The report on the laundries is over 1,000 pages long and provides a stark and disturbing account of the lives of the women who worked in these laundries for many years, earning the hurtful and totally unjustified stigma of fallen women. Approximately 10,000 women are known to have entered the laundries from the foundation of the State in 1922 to their closure in 1996. In a dark and cruel time in our history, these unfortunate women, victims of the circumstances of their birth, were abandoned by the church, the State and in some cases by their families. These women are the human face of injustice and the voices of those who are no longer with us. They were the outcasts of society, deprived of education, and were victims of all the degrees of emotional abuse one could imagine. They were exploited because they had nobody else to whom they could run. They endured miserable working conditions without pay and were stripped of their identity. Many of them were only identified by a number. We have listened to and read the stories and our hearts are broken for these women and for what they endured.

Time is now of the essence for the survivors of the Magdalen laundries. They are survivors. We now have responsibility to ensure that the wrongs done to these women will be put right. This is not a time for political point-scoring. These women are tired, frail and suffering, and their families have suffered. We must acknowledge that. The Taoiseach and Tánaiste met a number of the women last week and I am confident that they listened to their harrowing stories with empathy and compassion, and will respond accordingly.

The horrific abuse inflicted on innocent children by the members of the religious orders has been well documented in recent years, and it can never be forgotten. However, it is also important to remember that many of the religious congregations were a positive force in communities through the years. Many poor and deprived families benefited from the generosity of good men and women in religious congregations. The four religious congregations that are the subject of this report did not set out to recruit women for forced labour. They were asked by the State and the church to take over laundries which had already been in existence since the 18th century. They were seen to be offering places of refuge to women coming from difficult situations in their families or personal lives. However, the subsequent treatment of many of the women and young children who entered the laundries was appalling. Sadly, this is the legacy these congregations must endure.


mary shandon
Posted on 23 Apr 2013 7:53 pm (Report this comment)

Catherine,just wondering who writes your speeches?

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