Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Magdalen Laundries: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]
Whenever abuse such as that described in the Magdalen laundries report comes into the public domain, it is met, quite correctly, with a cry for action. The legacy of abuse suffered by these women was continued over the years, even after they had left the laundries, when previous Governments failed to respond to and acknowledge the wrong done to them in these church-run laundries, facilitated by a dominant mindset at the time in our society which was compounded by the support of the State.
Now, after so many years, for many of these women seeking justice and healing, having to recount repeatedly their desperate personal stories of alienation and shame and of their dehumanising and unacknowledged experiences in the hands of authority in these Magdalen laundries, the public outcry for atonement for their pain and loss is overpowering. This public outcry has taken the form of a demand directing the Government and especially the Taoiseach on how they should act. This, too, is understandable. However, an accusation of failure to confront and deal with these dark issues and episodes in the history of our country cannot be levelled at this Government, whether it be wrongs in our social or our economic history.
In the wake of the Cloyne report on clerical abuse, the Government, under the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, proved decisive and thorough in dealing with the issues raised, with the injury to the victims involved being of paramount consideration. In fact, Government action on the Cloyne report represents a milestone in our history, marking a departure for the State from covering up or making excuses for institutions which abused their positions of trust and authority and towards protection for the vulnerable and restitution for those who were abused. I have no doubt this will be the case in the wake of the Magdalen laundries report. The report was commissioned by this Government and we are all coming to terms with it. Can it seriously be said that two weeks' consideration is too long, after everything that has happened? I appeal to all those who feel strongly about the content of this report to have no doubt that justice will be done for victims and their families and, most importantly, for the integrity of the Irish people standing for right against wrong.
Finally, I acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the former Senator, Dr. Martin McAleese. With very limited resources and with the assistance of officials in various Departments, he put together this long overdue and considerable body of work. I have no doubt that if consultants were engaged to prepare a similar report, the cost to the taxpayer would have been considerable.