Irish Republican News · July 26, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Nuns urged to pay for abuses
Nuns urged to pay for abuses

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Pressure is growing on the religious orders that ran the Magdalene laundries to reverse a decision not to compensate those girls and women who lived and worked for them under slave labour conditions.

The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have told Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that they will not pay into the fund which could cost between 34.5 million euro and 58 million euro.

The ‘Laundries’ ostensibly existed to provide shelter for abandoned youths and ‘fallen women’, but in reality they operated as a form of state-sanctioned incarceration, in forced, dehumanised sweatshops.

The last such institution continued to operate until 1996.

Following an 18-month inquiry, a report published in February found “significant” state collusion in the admission of thousands of women into the institutions.

Elderly survivors said they would go on hunger strike over the failure of successive 26 County governments to set up a financial redress scheme for the thousands of women enslaved there. That finally forced the current Taoiseach Enda Kenny to issue a full state apology and outline a compensation package.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the issue of liability was clearly motivating the orders’ refusal to make a financial contribution to the redress scheme.

“I respectfully say that the Government’s record of failure to tackle the elites and to pursue institutions for wrongdoing is shocking and not good enough,” he told the Dublin parliament.

Mr Adams said those elites, whether in financial or religious institutions, needed to be made accountable to the people. “It is no accident that the women and girls were mostly poor,” he added. “Then, as now, it is one law for the poor and one law for the rich.”

But the Taoiseach refused to contemplate any confrontation with the orders or require them to make a contribution.

“I cannot force them to do that,” he said. “I cannot take away the charitable status, as some people have called for. This is an issue they know about themselves.”

One of the groups representing survivors of the Magdalene laundries has called on people to boycott Mass and to withhold donations to local churches.

Spokesman for Magdalene Survivors Together, Steven O’Riordan, said that after the “shocking and pathetic “response from the government, the women were now seeking the assistance of “all decent citizens of this country to stand behind them”.

BETHANY EXCLUDED

There was furthe dismay this week when the government said that it would not include the Protestant-run Bethany home in its redress scheme for survivors of institutional abuse.

Bethany home campaigner Derek Leinster said survivors had been left “shattered” by the government’s inaction.

“Not only am I very very disappointed, I am also amazed. The other survivors are shattered - there is no other word for it,” he said.

Former residents of the Dublin institution have battled for years to have it included in redress schemes set up for survivors of Catholic-run orphanages, care homes and industrial schools, and most recently for women formerly detained in Magdalene laundries.

The Bethany home was run by evangelical Protestants for unmarried mothers, young children and women convicted of crimes such as petty theft, prostitution and infanticide. It operated in Rathgar between 1934 and 1972.

The institution shared the harsh and brutal characteristics of the Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries. Some 219 Bethany children, who died between 1922 and 1949, are buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Campaigners say infants and toddlers lived in squalor and neglect at the institution and in Protestant foster homes despite state inspections.

Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald described the announcement as deeply unjust and cynical.

“There is a wealth of evidence in the public domain proving state culpability in the neglect and harm of children residing in Bethany Home,” she said.

“Bethany survivors were unjustly excluded from the Residential Institution’s Redress Scheme by the previous government on a false pretext. It is simply wrong of Fine Gael and Labour Minister’s to perpetuate this wrong.

“The decision is deeply unjust and cynical and its announcement after the Dail has gone into its summer recess makes it even more so.”

Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who met Bethany survivors on April 16, said he understood “this is disappointing for the group involved but the government has taken its time and arrived carefully at this decision”.

© 2013 Irish Republican News