Irish Government apologises to Magdalene women

A memorial plaque to victims of the Magdalene Laundries in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin
A memorial plaque to victims of the Magdalene Laundries in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

The Irish Government has apologised to the thousands of women locked up in Catholic-run workhouses known as Magdalene laundries between 1922 and 1996.

As an inquiry found 2,124 of those detained in the institutions were sent by the authorities, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his sympathies with survivors and the families of those who have died.

“To those resident who went into the Magdalene laundries from a variety of ways, 26% from state involvement, I’m sorry for those people that they lived in that kind of environment,” he said.

Records have confirmed that 10,012 women spent time in Magdalene laundries across the country between 1922 and 1996.

More than a quarter of all official referrals were made by the state, an 18 month inquiry chaired by Senator Martin McAleese has found.

The inquiry identified five areas where there was direct state involvement in the detention of women in 10 laundries run by nuns.

:: They were detained by courts, gardai, transferred by industrial or reform schools, rejected by foster families, orphaned, abused children, mentally or physically disabled, homeless teenagers or simply poor.

:: Inspectors, known as “the suits” by the women, routinely checked conditions complied with rules for factories.

:: Government paid welfare to certain women in laundries, along with payments for services.

:: Women were also enabled to leave laundries if they moved to other state-run institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, county and city homes and in the company of police, probation, court or prison officers.

:: The state also had a role in registering the death of a woman in a laundry.