Everybody in this House would, in the first instance, have to commend and pay tribute to Senator Martin McAleese and his team for the comprehensive and substantive report which has revealed hitherto unknown facts about State involvement in the Magdalen laundries.
It was the right decision to set up such a committee. It was a good decision. It is a comprehensive and substantive report. However, for whatever reason - rightly or wrongly - expectations were raised in advance of the publication of the report yesterday that a comprehensive response would be given to the issues raised in it. Those representing survivors of the Magdalen laundries had the impression that such a comprehensive response would emanate from the Taoiseach and the Government.
Having read the executive summary of the report and other aspects of it, it is clear that an unequivocal apology should be given to the women of the Magdalen laundries by the officers of the State. An apology should be given by the Taoiseach on all our behalf in his capacity as Taoiseach and Head of Government. Such an apology would say to the women involved that what was done to them was wrong. It should be said that the apology is on behalf of the Government, the State and all the citizens - no ifs and no buts.
One can qualify reports and a range of aspects involved in this or any issue but the fundamental point that comes out of the report is the denial of fundamental human rights. I accept the arguments about it being a different era and historically looking back but, fundamentally, what emerges from the report is a denial of the right to freedom, the loss of freedom and the denial of contact with the outside world. That was exacerbated whether by omission or commission on behalf of the State by its involvement, but also compounded by the absence, lack and undermining of educational, health and welfare rights, which clearly were significant factors as well in the life experience of the women involved.
Given the publication of the report and what has emerged from it, the moment is now when such an apology should be issued on behalf of society. As an immediate response, in addition to an apology, Justice for Magdalenes has suggested – it is a good proposal – that a dedicated unit should be established within the Department of Justice and Equality which would be an interdepartmental hub to co-ordinate remaining aspects of the State's response to the issue, including redress, which should also be provided.