Posts Tagged ‘Magdalen Laundries’

Guest Contribution: Smith on Court Referral to the Magdalen Laundries

February 3, 2010 1 comment

We were very pleased yesterday evening to receive the following from James Smith, one of the more prominent members of Justice for Magdalenes. It is the text of a letter also published in yesterday’s Irish Times and available here. We have written previously about the Magdalen Laundries here, here and here. James himself is an Associate Professor at Boston College. James’ professional profile is here. James is also the author of Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Confinement (2007, University of Notre Dame Press). Today’s Irish Times reports that Justice for Magdalenes described the meeting with the Department of Education, which is referred to in the post below, as “helpful”.

Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor advocacy group, is due to meet officials in the Department of Education today. The meeting follows statements in recent days by the Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe, revising his assertion last September that “the State did not refer individuals nor was it complicit in referring individuals to the laundries”.

In a letter addressed to me (dated January 27th), Mr O’Keeffe acknowledges that the Department of Justice has now “confirmed that some women were referred by the courts to the Magdalen laundries”. The Minister repeated this new understanding in his response to two Parliamentary Questions in the Dáil on Thursday last. Justice for Magdalenes welcomes the Minister’s acknowledgment of State complicity and suggests that it provides the basis for moving towards the establishment of a distinct redress scheme for Magdalene survivors.

We assert, however, that evidence of State complicity also involves the Department of Education directly. Mr O’Keeffe continues to avoid this issue, in his letter and his comments in the Dáil. Rather, he maintains the distinction between “children who were taken into the laundries privately or who entered the laundries as adults” as “quite different to persons who were resident in State-run institutions.” Justice for Magdalenes agrees with Mr O’Keeffe that section 1 (3) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 provides redress to survivors who as children “were transferred to a Magdalen laundry from a State regulated institution.”

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Developments on the Magdalen Laundries Front

September 29, 2009 3 comments

The campaign for redress and reparations for residents of the Magadalen laundies appears to be gathering momentum. Sunday saw former residents of Magdalen Laundries and their supporters hold a march, calling for compensation from the Government and religious institutions for the abuse they suffered.

Todays Irish Times reports that Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe has apologised for using the word “employees” to describe women who had been resident in Magdalen laundries throughout Ireland up to the mid-1990s.

In a letter to Dublin South TD Tom Kitt he expressed deep regret for “any offence caused by my use of the term ‘employees’ when referring to these women”. He added: “I fully acknowledge that the word ‘workers’ would have been more appropriate.”

Leaving aside the question of whether ‘workers’ is, in fact, an appropriate term for the residents of the laundries, the Minister has not, apparently changed his views expressed in his previous letter to TD Kitt. These include the assertion that the former residents of the laundries were not eligible for compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board as the “[t]he Magdalen laundries were privately-owned and operated establishments which did not come within the responsibility of the State.” Nor did he refute his previous comment that “[t]he State did not refer individuals to the Magdalen laundries nor was it complicit in referring individuals to them.” Read more…

Further Criticism of State’s Approach to Victims of Magdalen Laundries

September 19, 2009 1 comment

katherineFollowing on from Aoife’s post yesterday, my colleague in UCD (although in a different department), Dr. Katherine O’Donnell (left) yesterday sharply criticised Minister O’Keefe’s description of women in the Magdalen Laundries as “employees”. The Irish Times today carries some of Katherine’s comments in a short piece that is available here. The following extract communicates the tenor of the piece:

Dr O’Donnell…pointed out that “an employee voluntarily gives his/her labour; is properly rewarded; and has a right to represesentation /free association with a union.” None of these were available to women in the Magdalen laundries, she said.

The State had “a responsibility to all of its citizens”, she said, including the many referred by its courts to the laundries.

No redress for ‘former employees’ of Magdalen laundries

September 18, 2009 12 comments

Magdalene2The Irish Times reports today that Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe, has said that former residents of Magdalen laundries are not eligible for compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board. Mr O’Keeffe was replying in a letter to Tom Kitt TD, who had made representations to the Minister concerning former residents of the laundries.

He did so on behalf of James Smith, associate professor at the English department and Irish studies programme in Boston College and author of Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment, (2008, Manchester University Press). In his letter, Mr O’Keeffe stated that ‘in terms of establishing a distinct scheme for former employees of the Magdalen laundries, the situation in relation to children who were taken into the laundries privately or who entered the laundries as adults is quite different to persons who were resident in State-run institutions.’

An exception to this, he said, would be children who were transferred from a State-regulated institution to a Magdalen laundry and suffered abuse while resident there. This differentation was justified was on the basis that the State was still responsible for the welfare and protection of children transferred to a Magdalen laundry from a State-regulated institution ‘provided they had not been officially discharged from the scheduled institution’. In doing so, the Minister perpetuates the historical failure of the State to recognise and give effect to its responsibility to ensure the protection of adult occupants of the Laundries.

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