Ireland: Crocodile tears for Magdalene laundry's women enslaved by State & Church patriarchs Print E-mail

 Dublin ~ Sunday 10 February 2013

Editorial:

Magdalene truths

THERE was more than a touch of the cruel denouement of Animal Farm surrounding the scholastic caution of Mr Kenny's ambivalent response to the Magdalene Report, for the insipid legalisms that characterised the Taoiseach's worst performance since the Moriarty Report were as devoid of any sense of empathy as the worst days of Mr Cowen.

Subsequently, the growing queue of Irish Times apologists for Mr Kenny nonsensically claimed that the Taoiseach might have been distracted by the promissory notes deal. In fact, far more fundamental factors than this or the growing inability of a Government obsessed by the cost of everything to fail to understand the value of small things are at play.

The major political weakness of Mr Kenny is – understandably for a dynastic politician – a tendency to prioritise the interests of the warm and known tribe of insiders such as the local TD, the garda, the monsignor and the judge who golf together on Sundays. Mr Kenny's discomfort last week is explained as much by political embarrassment over the role of his own party and class in creating such a terrifying State for disempowered children, whose response, even today, to their fate is characterised by patience rather than avarice.

Decency requires a departure by the Taoiseach from his petit-bourgeois temerity. Children know the saddest thing in this world is a person that does not have a soul. Mr Kenny, in his dealings with the lost children of the Magdalenes, would be wise to take note of such wisdom.
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 Dublin ~ 07 February 2013

Crocodile tears can't wash away indelible stain left by Magdalenes

By Martina Devlin

A council worker in the now derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Laundry in Dublin

WELCOME to the age of washing whites whiter. When stains show up on laundry day, we know just how to neutralise them – identify the perpetrators and start baying for heads on a platter.\

Culprits are always other people, because Irish society never shares the blame for blots on the national reputation. Failures always happened without our knowledge or approval. And so, true to form, the default position is to round up the usual suspects following the Magdalene Laundries report.

You know the drill: the blame for the brutality of those workhouses can be laid entirely at the door of the Catholic Church, which moulded Ireland into a repressive place. The laundries are another example of the crushing hand of authoritarianism on the shoulders of women deemed dangerous, deviant or just plain inconvenient.

The Magdalene Laundries did, indeed, operate amid a narrow, self-reinforcing society: their harsh regime was indefensible during previous eras and remains indefensible today.

But they existed because citizens allowed it to be so. Their walls were high, but people entered laundries on business and closed their eyes to what they saw. The Catholic Church calls them fallen women? Then keep them apart before they pollute the community.

What happened behind laundry doors was known about, and acceded to. Society allowed girls and young women to be denied their freedom and used as forced labour: we collaborated in their dehumanisation.

Society played pass-the-parcel with their lives, shunting their care to religious congregations. Yet now we have the hypocrisy to cry: "Not in my name!" But it was done in our name: we knew it and kept silent. At least let's acknowledge our actions.

In Ireland today, the religious orders have become expedient scapegoats. Their reputations are at a historic low, with people willing to believe anything of them. But we are slow to examine our own consciences.

Where doubts prick, we point to servile politicians kissing bishops' rings and pandering to Rome Rule. The State collaborated in this human rights abuse, not us, we say. But we were part of the State. We re-elected those politicians.
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 Dublin ~ Monday 11 February 2013

Martin ups pressure over wrong details given to UN body

By Michael Brennan, Sarah McDonald and Ruaidhri Giblin

ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has upped the pressure on the Government on the Magdalene Laundries issue by pointing out that it gave wrong information on its role to a key UN body.

Two years ago, the former secretary general of the Department of Justice Sean Aylward told the UN Committee Against Torture that the vast majority of women who went to Magdalene Laundries went there voluntarily or with the consent of their parents or guardians.

But the Magdalene report compiled by Martin McAleese discovered that the State was involved in admitting 26.5pc of the 10,000 women who ended up in the Magdalene Laundries.

Dr Martin said that he was leaving the issue of making an apology to the women to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

But he pointed out how the State had supplied the wrong information to the UN committee despite having the correct facts in its own records. "I find it strange that nobody has apologised for the representatives of the Irish government going before the UN Committee on Torture and saying that these were just private institutions," he said.

It came as the Justice for Magdalenes group has called for the resignation of Mr Aylward from the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

He was appointed to the group after stepping down as secretary general of the Department of Justice in 2011.

A spokesperson for Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it was a matter solely for the Council of Europe.

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 Dublin ~ 07 February 2013

Magdalene laundries product of male-dominated rule

 Another lump of cancer has been extracted from the body of Eire. How she must weep.

Acknowledgement that the State colluded in the abuse of women but no apology for the Magdalene ladies is par for the course.

How could the Taoiseach apologise? If he did then he would be acknowledging his predecessors were the overseers of this calumny. This nation's birth was far more painful than we ever imagined. A group of men, some revolutionaries, most opportunists, were totally incapable of running a modern State.

Health, education and welfare services were handed over to religious and like-minded laity because those sons of the soil hadn't a clue how to run a nation.

In 1912 the Christian Brothers wished to open a "school" in Letterfrack. They were prevented from doing this by parliament in Britain, which cited its total remoteness and those that would run it as being unsuitable for teaching children. The brothers didn't have to wait long to enter the wilderness previously denied them.

The Magdalene ladies are no mystery. They were the product of a patriarchal male-dominated society, men who possessed no skills of nurture.

In absolving themselves of responsibility in the area of education and health, the State's founding fathers empowered some good men and women, but many, many zealots to unleash their vision of what the morals of this nation should be.
In tandem with this power, many lace curtain villagers and townspeople colluded and indeed agreed with the status quo.

So whilst Mary went to the Magdalene convent for the "sin" of being pregnant or destitute, Sean the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker funnily enough didn't arrive at a similar rail-head.

No, Sean continued to live his "normal" life even though it was his own need for gratification that sent Mary to the Magdalene Laundry in the first place.

Perhaps the State might simply say out loud: "Sorry people, but we seem to have made a haimes of things for the first 50 years of freedom." Saying it to the Magdalene ladies would be a start.

John Cuffe
Old Fairgreen, Dunboyne