Magdalene survivor group seeks redress
A graveyard in the former Magdalene laundry in Sunday’s Well under the control of NAMA is "neglected, forgotten and discarded - just the way these women were treated during their lives", according to Katherine O'Donnell of the organisation Justice for Magdalenes.
“The Sunday’s Well site is now in NAMA with very neglected graves without proper headstones. The graves are untended and not properly marked."
According to Ms O’Driscoll, a senior lecturer in UCD, when the women entered the institutions, they were given a generic name, often based on a saint like Mary of Knock or Mary of Fatima and the gravestones may not have had the women’s real names.
The Sunday’s Well institution was run by the order of The Good Shepherd.
“We would hope that the sisters have proper records of who is in the graveyard,” she said, adding that the victims deserved their graves to be well tended.
‘Long overdue for an apology’
This week JFM also submitted a copy of their report to the inter-departmental committee investigating state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries in an attempt to speed up the process.
Last week Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, TD, said that the inter-departmental committee’s final report now may not appear until the end of the year, when it was due at the end of the month.
“We’ve been delayed by Minister Shatter in a campaign for an apology and for restitution. He says he has to wait until we go to cabinet with this. It’s already 15 months waiting on this,” she said.
“The time is long overdue for an apology. Just this week we were trying to contact a woman in hospital, who had been in a Magdalene Laundry. She doesn’t have another 15 months to wait."
Ms O'Driscoll says the document, ‘State Involvement with the Magdalene Laundries,’ offers overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of State complicity in the abuses experienced by young girls and women in these institutions.
Testimony in the submission describes the abuse suffered by women and children including being physically beaten with belts, forcibly having their hair cut and being separated from sisters and children as well as being given new names.
The submission was supported by some 795 pages of newly gathered survivor testimony, which is consistent with the 3,707 pages of archival evidence and legislative documentation also provided to the inter-departmental committee.
JFM want the Government to issue an immediate apology and to initiate meaningful discussions towards providing redress and restorative justice to all survivors.
MS O’Driscoll pointed out that the UN Committee Against Torture recommendation in June 2011 called on the State to ensure that survivors obtain redress within one year, which the State has failed to do.
JFM want a threshold set for State involvement short of the final report so that survivors can access entitlements without further delay including statutory pensions and lost wages.
The JFM campaign for justice has run for three years already.
Ms O’Driscoll has been given a large grant by the Irish Research Council to conduct an oral and archival history project with the survivors of Magdalene laundries. Beginning on 1 October, researchers will finally give a voice to some of the victims who have long been denied it, she said.
“These kinds of archival projects feed into education and help people to understand what happened and ensure that it never happens again.
There were two Magdalene Laundries operated in Cork city and many others in the county. One was in Sunday’s Well and another in Peacock Lane near Blackpool.