Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Would mean something for Irish people and the notion of 'Irish Neutrality' if Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs @simoncov
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On Tuesday, February 19th the Taoiseach apologised, on behalf of the state, to all those who had suffered in the state ran Magdelen Laundries. It was an emotional evening in the Dail as survivors of the Laundries watched from the gallery. In Mick's statement he compliments the Taoiseach on his apology and on the Government's promise to provide redress. You can watch Mick's speech here.

More than a year ago, I was approached in the Italian quarter by a woman who had been in one of the Magdalen laundries. She had spent 16 years in an industrial school, was found by her mother and moved with her to England, where she stayed for nine months. She left because she was being abused by her stepfather and on her return to Ireland, she was picked up by the gardaí and brought to the laundry at High Park in Drumcondra. She told me that on her first night there, she was stripped naked and all her hair was cut off. She was told to smoke three cigarettes a day to quieten her down. There were 60 people in one dormitory and they were only allowed to bathe once a week. Moreover, when they did, all 60 of them were obliged to share the same bathwater. She spent four years there and she was regularly beaten. I also welcome the Government's apology and its promise to provide redress. Full credit should go to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste for their excellent speeches. It is important to perceive this as a start and that there is no let-up in the effort to bring justice to these women. The announcement made today should not be portrayed as a grand benevolent gesture on the part of the Irish State. This is disgracefully overdue and it is about giving these women what they are owed. I refer to unpaid labour, social insurance contributions that were never paid, pension entitlements that were never accrued and medical services, including disability supports and counselling and psychotherapy, as well as other services. All the women who spent time in the Magdalen laundries - and their families - must obtain redress. It is of crucial importance that the redress system be independent, properly resourced, accessible, non-adversarial, transparent and open. The scheme must be placed on a statutory footing with proper monitoring and oversight and must include an appeal system. Amnesty International has made some important observations in this regard. It pointed out that in June 2011, the United Nations Committee against Torture recommended to the Government with regard to the Magdalen laundries that the State is obliged, under the United Nations Convention against Torture, to ensure all victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation, including the means for as full a rehabilitation as possible. The Government, rather than the women, has the responsibility of bringing to account the religious orders which ran the Magdalen laundries for their role in the abuse there. Amnesty International also pointed out that it is clear from the report that girls and women who spent time in Magdalen laundries experienced serious human rights abuses, including servitude, forced labour, inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of educational opportunity. In addition, girls and women were subject to arbitrary detention, since they were de facto detained in these institutions. In respect of the McAleese report, it is striking that not once in a report of more than 1,000 pages are the words "slavery" or "torture" mentioned. Women were imprisoned, forced to carry out unpaid labour and subjected to severe psychological and physical maltreatment. Never does the aforementioned report name the incarceration of these women and girls for what was, namely, torture and slavery. It appears at times as though the language in the report tries to explain away the internment of girls and women. The detention of women and girls in the laundries by the State is labelled in the reports as "referrals". According to the report, none of these women was imprisoned, committed or incarcerated; they were simply referred from the health and social service sector, industrial and reformatory schools, the criminal justice system and mother and baby homes. It of course is welcome that the report established what it set out to do and found evidence of significant and direct State involvement in the Magdalen laundries. The committee fulfilled its mandate, which was to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen laundries. I will conclude. However, the committee also went beyond its brief to provide information on the living and working conditions in the laundries and on their financial viability. The report implies that little physical abuse took place in the laundries. However, as Amnesty International has pointed out, the report also cited psychological punishments, which also should be deemed to be physical, namely, the use of solitary confinement cells and the deprivation of food for those girls and women who refused to work. Furthermore, the committee did not include in its report the 800 pages of written testimony provided by the Justice for Magdalenes advocacy groups. These testimonies, both from survivors and other witnesses, illustrate that many women experienced physical punishment during their times in the laundries. I would like to finish with a quotation from a woman whose testimony was published in the Ryan report: The older I get I find these years haunt me, I will carry it to the grave with me... The nuns made you feel as if you’re a nobody and you never have any roots... As the years go by you try not to be spiteful, I try not to be bitter... I have bad days and then I have good days.

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Namaleaks is a project that seeks to uncover possible injustice and poor practice related to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and financial institutions in Ireland.


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