The Taoiseach has told the religious orders to have a serious think about their refusal to pay any compensation to the women who did slave labor in the Magdalen laundries for decades. This was a for-profit business the orders were running, and the women got literally no payment at all. That’s slavery, and a pretty damn harsh version of it at that.
The four orders have told the Government they will not contribute to the redress scheme set up to compensate the former residents of the laundries. The scheme is expected to cost between €34 million and €58 million.
The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund.
Laughable, isn’t it. Mercy. Charity. Good shepherd. All that, yet they refuse to pay back wages to women they enslaved. What mercy? What charity? What good shepherd?
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter earlier ruled out stripping the orders involved in running the Magdalene laundries of their charitable status.
He told the Dáil yesterday he believed the orders had a “moral and ethical” obligation to contribute.
One of the groups representing the former residents, Magdalene Survivors Together, called on the Government to strip the orders of their charitable status.
Spokesman Steven O’Riordan said access should be sought to their accounts and their assets.
“The religious orders in question should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. They should be ashamed of themselves and the Irish Government should be going over to the religious orders and demanding access to their accounts. They should be demanding access to their accounts and their land and they should be demanding them to cough up for the injustice that they created in our society.”
Morally, if not legally, they should.
Asked whether there was scope to take legal action against the religious orders, Mr Shatter said: “No, the reality is there isn’t scope to take legal action against them.
“This is a moral and ethical issue. The Magdalene laundries as we know provided a form of refuge for many women, but it was an extraordinarily harsh regime and there was the issue of women working unpaid in the laundries and the impact on their lives of the experience of the laundries.”
No. Come on. You can’t call it refuge, even “a form of refuge,” when they couldn’t leave. They were unlawfully imprisoned, and it’s not right to call that any kind of refuge.