Magdalene laundries: UK women's 'fast settlement' calls

Phyllis Morgan, of the Irish Women's Survivors Support Network, said the meeting went very well

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Women who spent time in the Republic of Ireland's Magdalene laundries have called for a "fast, fair and just" settlement for their suffering.

It comes after a meeting between 17 women, who now live in the UK, and the Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, where they described their treatment to him.

Between 1922 and 1996 some 10,000 women and girls were made to work unpaid in laundries run by Roman Catholic nuns.

The group say they are expecting Mr Kenny to give a full apology next week.

Sally Mulready, who chairs the Irish Women's Survivors Network, described the meeting as "significant".

"It was a very warm meeting," she said. "I think there's a consensus here that we will be looking forward to a very wholesome, heartfelt apology from Enda Kenny on behalf of the state on Tuesday."

'Harsh and uncompromising'

Earlier this month a report found the Irish Republic government was involved in running the laundries, where women and girls worked without pay.

The taoiseach has admitted the laundries operated in a "harsh and uncompromising Ireland" but has resisted calls from the opposition Fianna Fail party to make a formal apology from the Irish state.

Magdalene Laundries

Picture from BBC drama sinners about life in a Magdalene laundry

• Originally termed Magdalene Asylums the first in Ireland was opened in Dublin in 1765, for Protestant girls

• First Catholic home was founded in Cork in 1809

• Envisaged as short-term refuges for 'fallen women' they became long-term institutions and penitents were required to work, mostly in laundries on the premises

• They extended to take in unmarried mothers, women with learning difficulties and girls who had been abused

• The facilities were self-supporting and the money generated by the laundries paid for them

• Between 1922 and 1996 there were 10 such laundries in the Republic of Ireland

• Many Irish institutions, such as the army, government departments, hotels and even Guinness had contracts with Magdalene laundries

• The women toiled behind locked doors unable to leave after being admitted and while the laundries were paid, they received no wages

• The congregations which ran them were the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

BBC correspondent Nick Higham said: "The inmates included unmarried mothers, women guilty of petty crimes, or simply girls from broken homes. The last laundry - in a Dublin convent - closed as late as 1996."

The inquiry chaired by Senator Martin McAleese found 2,124 of those detained in the institutions were sent by the authorities.

Mary Currington, who spent time in Magdalene laundries in Ireland, said the only way they got away from the nuns was to come to the UK.

She was among the group who met Mr Kenny at the Irish embassy in central London.

Mr Kenny has offered an expression of regret for the stigma attached to former inmates.

Earlier this week he met the Magdalene Survivors Together group, who have said they are confident they will receive an apology.

Our correspondent said: "Some women spent their whole lives in the laundries and died there, but most stayed only a few months, and many fled Ireland after their release... never to return."

Women were forced into Magdalene laundries for a crime as minor as not paying for a train ticket, the McAleese report found.

The report also confirmed that a police officer could arrest a girl or a woman without warrant if she was being recalled to the laundry or if she had run away.

Fianna Fail has called for the establishment of a dedicated unit within the Department of Justice to co-ordinate the Irish Republic's response to the McAleese report, including all forms of redress for the survivors.

The system was the subject of a 2002 film, The Magdalene Sisters, which starred Geradline McEwan and Anne-Marie Duff, whose director said at the time he believed the former inmates should have received an apology.

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