The Taoiseach choked up

The Taoiseach delivered a state apology to the survivor of the Magdalene laundries this evening.

Enda Kenny broke into tears as he made an historic and emotionally-charged state apology to survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

The Taoiseach received a standing ovation in parliament after he described the Catholic-run workhouses as the “nation’s shame” and accepted the state’s direct involvement.

“I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the state, the Government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry,” Mr Kenny said.

Twenty women who were locked up in one of the laundries watched with bated breath from the public gallery.

They held hands tightly and wept as the Taoiseach made his tearful apology.

Well good. It’s about time.

He had come under fire for failing to apologise two weeks ago when former Senator Martin McAleese’s 1,000-page report into State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries was published.

But in the Dail, Mr Kenny delivered a clear state apology to the 10,000 women who had been in the country’s ten Magdalene Laundries.

He said there never would have been any need for institutions such as the Magdalen Laundries in a society guided by the principles of compassion and social justice.

And he said that women kept in there were wholly blameless and were only described as “fallen women” due to prejudice.

And the church. Don’t forget the church.

Mr Kenny became emotional as he concluded his speech to apologise once more for the national shame.

“At the conclusion of my discussions with one group of the Magdelen Women one of those present sang ‘Whispering Hope’. A line from that song stays in my mind – “when the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day”,” he said.

He had to pause in the middle of his final sentence, saying “Excuse me”, before regaining his composure.

“Let me hope that this day and this debate heralds a new dawn for all those who feared that the dark midnight might never end,” he said.

Well done.


  1. Snoof says

    It’s about time.

    If governments want to prevent institutionalised violation and abuse in the future, the first step is to recognise and acknowledge that it happened in the past.

  2. Ulysses says

    And the church. Don’t forget the church.

    I’ve just read the Grauniad’s, the Irish Times’ and Amnesty International’s articles and comments about Kenny’s apology. The Catholic Church’s involvement in the Magdalene Laundries does not appear to have been discussed by Kenny.

  3. Rob says

    So what, the State takes the blame (at least some of which is correct), but the Church hides behind the States skirts and says ‘nothing to see here’? He got one thing right though. A society guided and controlled by the RC Church has nothing to do with the principles of compassion and social justice.

  4. says

    At long last after a whole decade of fighting for justice, the Magdalen laundry survivors have made history. What a sigh of relief! The frustration associated with standing up for them was very trying at times, but now that has all been lifted with the historical apology given by the taoiseach tonight. They will now go down in the annals of Irish history alongside survivors of industrial *schools* and clerical abuse for having taken a similar gargantuan stand in fighting against the Irish government. I’m so proud to have supported them over the years via the medium of B&W and other sources. I know too that they very much appreciate the acknowledgement that OB has given them. These women who have suffered throughout their whole childhood and young adulthood, and some all their lives, have at long last been vindicated by the highest authority in the land of Erin. They are mighty women. Some of them suffered every conceivable act of violence towards them as tiny toddlers in their respective industrial *school* institutions before being sent to Magdalen laundries. Others suffered rape by the score, and paid the ultimate price with being incarcerated into penal servitude because of said rapes. Some became so institutionalised that they remained in Magdalen laundries for the rest of their lives, as they were too afraid of the outside world. These women are a force to be reckoned with indeed. Their voices must never be forgotten. They were very fortunate to have had exceedingly empathetic expert legal people on their side who fought for/with them tooth and nail till justice was seen to be done. It was such a tough battle, but they got there in the end. I say – well done survivors of Magdalen laundries.

    Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. As the headline says: ‘The Taoiseach choked up’. I now say in the aftermath of ‘choking up’ the Taoiseach needs to seriously, erm… COUGH UP!

  5. grumpyoldfart says

    The full text is here:

    The church ran the laundries as profit making businesses (easy to do when the workers are unpaid slaves) and the Government took advantage of the situation by dumping thousands of women into the slave camps and then instantly forgetting about them and their problems.

    Kenny bravely admits the bleeding obvious – Church and State are equally responsible for the crimes committed in the slave camps – but then he tries to blame society as well !

    Today, just as the State accepts its direct involvement in the Magdalen Laundries, society too has its responsibility.

    “I believe I speak for millions of Irish people all over the world when I say we put away these women because for too many years we put away our conscience.

    In actual fact, society had nothing to do with the crimes committed in the slave camps. Society didn’t even know such things had happened until the nuns sold their land and the developers subsequently found hundreds of bodies lying in unmarked graves. Society doesn’t share the blame for those crimes. It was Society that called the criminals to account for those crimes.

    But Kenny doesn’t give up. At the end of his speech he is still blaming “Society” in general, rather than the “uncaring Government” and the “money hungry Catholic Church” in particular.

    As a society, for many years we failed you. We forgot you or, if we thought of you at all, we did so in untrue and offensive stereotypes. This is a national shame, for which I again say, I am deeply sorry and offer my full and heartfelt apologies.

    No wonder his audience applauded for such a long time – he had successfully apologised for the actions of Church and State and simultaneously got them off the hook. He sounded like the child in the school yard, excusing his own naughtiness by saying, “It wasn’t only me – a big boy made me do it.”

  6. Maureen Brian says

    So, grumpyoldfart, no-one in society ever wondered what was going on in that vast building at the top of the hill, no-one wondered what happened to the victims of domestic abuse and of rape, no-one in the whole of Ireland for a century or so ever asked what happened to their neighbour’s Cousin Mary and why she was never spoken of in the house? No-one? Ever?

    Marie-Therese and indeed Ophelia know more of this than I ever will but it is not possible to have a community where no-one ever asks a question, no “disappearance” ever registers – not unless it runs on fear or it is convenient (to whom?) to have things that way.

    Of course the Taoiseach should apologise on behalf of the Irish people. Who else could? Whether he got the rest of the population off the hook is a matter for debate.

  7. says

    Those women were somebody’s daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, friend. They disappeared from tightly knit communities where everybody knew everyone. And they showed up again in different places. People knew that the laundry was being done and that there must be somebody there to do it.
    Your argument sounds a lot like people in Germany claiming after WWII that they were innocent, that they didn’t know anything when in fact they all knew, they all knew people who disappeared and were never seen again.

    Institutions like the Laundaries and the Industrial school were common in many countries, and they always showed the connection of government and church and their war on “subversive elements” in society. In Germany it was “troublesome kids”, boys and girls, often from (unwed) single mothers, poor parents or divorced parents. They were forced to work, they were punished, they were imprisoned well into their adult lives with no court verdict or any resources.
    Things were done “for the children” that can only be called torture.
    When my mum was a child she was sent “on holiday” by the government because she was slightly underweight. On this holiday she was forced to eat and drink, but for drinking they had custard only to fatten them up. People even watched them brushing their teeth so they didn’t get to drink a mouthful of water. Their letters home were censored because those people rightly knew that, because those children were from “good homes” they wouldn’t get away with it if the parents received letters saying “help, I’m not allowed to drink water”.

  8. A. Noyd says

    “Injustices that swirl around us.” They’re just out there like fog or bees or willow fluff.

  9. JohnnieCanuck says

    Can we expect the RCC to offload any financial responsibility for their shortcomings onto the taxpayers for this, just as they did for the child abuse scandal? That seems to be the direction this is going in.

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