Thursday, 27 June 2013
Topical Issue Debate
Magdalen Laundries Issues
I welcome the announcement of the compensation scheme for the victims of the Magdalen laundries. I thank Mr. Justice Quirke and his staff for the very good work they did on this difficult issue. It has hounded this country for decades and particularly this institution which in the past did nothing about it. I thank the Minister and his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, for keeping the promise he made before coming into this House and after all these years bringing the matter to final closure. He is to be congratulated on that. It is a harrowing episode of hidden Ireland that no one wanted to touch. Different governments ran away from the issue. The present Minister did not run from it. That should be recognised.
Having read the scheme prepared by Mr. Justice Quirke I note the sensitive way in which he dealt with it. While it may offend some people I cannot, having read the McAleese report, which the Minister initiated, refer to these people as victims. They were slaves. I am even more of that opinion having read the report. They were slaves of the religious orders, having been imprisoned or semi-imprisoned in these laundries. The State has finally stepped up to the plate, not only by its apology but also with the scheme that has just been announced following the initiative of the Minister's Department.
There is, however, one gap in all of these reports. The slaves who were incarcerated in these laundries were in the care of the church, not of the State. The McAleese report argues that they did not make money. I refute this. They did make money and the proof of that is in the fact that they put other commercial operators out of business not only in Dublin but elsewhere. The Church is remiss. It is not good enough to offer an apology to these people. There is the question of the Church compensating these people. They deserve that. The State has addressed their welfare. It is my firm belief - I believe the taxpayers share it - that if it has any humanity the Church owes compensation to these people. The Church should move towards recognising that and the suffering that these people went through and make some contribution to their welfare at this late stage in their lives.