Survivor groups welcomed the Taoiseach's unreserved apology last night (Feb 19), in which he accepted the State's "direct involvement" in the Magdalen Laundries.
Justice for Magdalenes spokeswoman Katherine O’Donnell said women she represented were “very moved and very thrilled” by the Taoiseach's apology.
Enda Kenny said: "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 Magdalen Laundry."
The Taoiseach said the McAleese Report showed that the perception that "the Magdalen Laundries were reserved for what were offensively and judgementally called 'fallen women' is not based upon fact at all but upon prejudice" and that he hoped that the publication of the report and his apology "makes some contribution to the healing process".
Twenty women who survived the Magdalene Laundries attended the Dail debate to witness the apology and an emotional Mr Kenny addressed them directly saying "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."
The Taoiseach said the Government will establish a redress fund and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has annoucned that all survivors in the included laundries can contact the Department of Justice from today to register their interest in being considered for benefits or supports from the fund.
In a statement, Justice for Magdalenes, said it “looks forward to the intent of the apology being made evident by the introduction of a system of redress that is prompt, open, fair, and transparent".
Mr Kenny had been criticised by some survivors for his initial response to the release of the McAleese Report two weeks ago, when he resisted a call to apologise for the State’s role in admitting women to the laundries.
According to the report some 10,000 women and girls entered Magdalen laundries since 1922 with more than a quarter of referrals made or facilitated by the State.