Magdalen Laundries Report: Statements (Resumed)

I share the pride of many people throughout the country with regard to the Taoiseach's apology on behalf of all of us to the survivors of the Magdalen laundries. That very eloquent apology spoke for the entire nation. I was happy that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, met the survivors in Dublin and London. It was both reassuring and heart-rending to hear a number of the survivors who appeared on "The Late Late Show" indicate how happy they were with the exchanges which took place during those meetings. That is all to the good.

Great credit is due to the victims and survivors. These individuals showed remarkable courage and tenacity and obviously possessed a great sense of hope in order to keep going against all the odds. They maintained their belief that, ultimately the truth would win out. Those survivors can take a collective bow. They should be very proud of themselves. Those who championed their cause also deserve particular credit. Everybody is a supporter now but there were those who stood up for the survivors in the past. I refer to Professor James Smith of Boston College in the US, Mary Raftery, an Irish journalist now deceased, and a number of other advocates. A number of individuals championed the cause in the worst of times and they deserve recognition. Members of this House who attended support meetings a number of years ago also deserve great credit. Former Senator Martin McAleese's report is excellent and comprehensive. It was delivered on time and on a low budget. We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. McAleese.

Nobody can excuse any of the cruelties visited on the survivors of the Magdalen laundries. The immediate perpetrators must stand condemned in respect of anyone who experienced abuse or cruelty at their hands or who was deprived of education or love as a result of their actions. Those members of religious orders who were involved in what happened must accept responsibility. There is no gainsaying or avoiding that. We must also accept the State's involvement in respect of this matter. According to the McAleese report, 8.1% of the referrals to the laundries were in respect of those convicted of petty crimes by the criminal justice system, a further 7.8% were from industrial or reformatory schools and in the region of another 7% of referrals came from the social services. There is also evidence to the effect that 18% of the business of the Sean MacDermott Street laundry took the form of State contracts. There is no avoiding the obvious level of State involvement in this matter. That is why the Taoiseach's apology was apt and why, in light of the need for practical solutions, the work being carried out by Mr. Justice Quirke is particularly appropriate. Gardaí were also involved in informal admissions to the laundries. Indeed, there were all sorts of other informal admissions that were quasi-judicial and quasi-legal in nature. This dimension must be acknowledged.

We must all accept our collective guilt in respect of this matter. There was a culture which existed in the country and which gave rise to the Magdalen laundries. The nature of that culture was to support the laundries. In addition, there was a judgmental dimension to what occurred and there was a focus on perceived respectability. There were all sorts of social and cultural forces which gave rise to the creation of the Magdalen laundries. We or our ancestors were all part of what went on. Many of us lived through some of the period and we all have a collective guilt. There is no avoiding that fact. While it is important to look back at aspects of our past that are glorious, worthy of celebration and of which we, as a people, should be proud, it is never healthy to avoid or brush under the carpet the dark parts of that past. The matter under discussion is certainly a dark part of our history. This is something of which we should not be proud, particularly as, individually and collectively, we all contributed to what occurred. In that sense, we share a collective guilt.

The values we had gave rise to the creation of the laundries. We must give practical expression to our guilt and that is why I welcome the fact that Mr. Justice Quirke will be designing a structure of compensation. It is important that, in the context of that compensation, the needs of individuals must be identified. There are varying needs among the victims and survivors. In many cases they require pensions, incomes, nursing home care, psychological support or bereavement counselling. A range of supports and a variety of approaches will be required and it will not just be a matter of issuing lump sum payments. Mr. Justice Quirke will develop a model in this regard. It is important that we should avoid unnecessary expenditure in respect of the compensation process. There should not be protracted litigation. In light of their age, that would not be fair to the survivors. It would also be both cumbersome and expensive. We must not waste the money which should be spent on the survivors on pursuing unnecessary and cumbersome legal proceedings. We must consider people's individual needs.

There is no avoiding the fact that the religious orders will be obliged to make a contribution to the final compensation fund.

People must understand that in many instances the religious orders have particular demographic structures which make it expensive for their members to live in nursing homes, to be given supported care, etc. Cognisance must be taken of that fact. The solution to one travesty of justice must not take the form of imposing another. Where there are assets and where there is a capacity to pay, however, it would be cathartic for the religious orders and would form part of the recovery process and allow them to identify with the survivors in a very practical way if they made a financial contribution to the compensation fund.

That must be part of the solution. It is not sufficient that they do not make any input. A State element by way of a significant contribution from the State is needed because there is direct State responsibility in the ways I identified earlier, but there is also collective responsibility on all of us in the way our values, judgmental attitudes and what we deemed as respectability contributed to the travesty that was the injustice in these homes. We all contributed and therefore there is a major responsibility on the State, but there is a similar responsibility on the religious orders that have assets to make a real contribution.

It is worthy to note that many of the women who were the perpetrators of these injustices were themselves victims in that they belonged to a culture where women religious were under-valued. The women who had been in the homes for quite a while developed a status of being in charge of their peers and those who had entered the homes laterally, and they became quite cruel in their administration of justice. There is a hierarchy of victims, therefore. There were victims at all levels in these institutions, and that merits recognition.

We first had the Taoiseach's apology but Members of this House in this debate must acknowledge our collective guilt. That must be followed by real compensation to ensure that the needs of every victim are addressed. That should and will happen under Mr. Justice Quirke's recommendation, and part of that should be the religious orders making a contribution.

The ultimate tribute we can pay to the victims, and the ultimate way we can remove ourselves from this sad episode in our history, is to ensure that these crimes are not repeated. We must be conscious also of having the highest standards where people are in institutional care, the highest standard of supervision, particularly in our geriatric services and in our services for disabled people, and that asylum seekers here are treated with dignity and respect. That is the challenge for us now. The way we can most comprehensively honour the victims is by making sure that what happened to them is never repeated.

Last Tuesday night was a unique occasion in Dáil Éireann. For the women who gathered here it was a special moment for them to put to rest a bleak memory of their past. For the State it was a time of recognition of past failings. For the Irish people it was an opportunity for the people's Chamber to acknowledge a historic wrong and thaw a cold part of our history.

The Taoiseach's apology was an important act of contrition for the State to recognise and apologise for failing vulnerable women over generations. It was a heartfelt speech, and I am glad that the survivors who watched from the public Gallery finally felt that the Irish State recognised the immense personal cost they have paid. It is rare in politics to see such joy and happiness. We are now tasked with justifying their hope and joy about that apology. I hope this House will now work to ensure that we put to right our flawed legacy.

For my part, I acknowledge the failure of my party in power to recognise the depth and scale of the suffering perpetrated in the laundries and the State's role in facilitating them. Justice delayed is justice denied, and I am sorry for the additional burden that delay placed upon the shoulders of the women involved who had already suffered enough. I hope that we can now take constructive steps to address the legacy of pain and the hurt that the State played such a central role in creating.

Members have spoken about closing a dark chapter in our history. I believe that the book of history should never be closed. The darker the pages the more they demand to be read by future generations. It is our job to put an end to the enduring suffering borne by the women involved in the laundries. We cannot allow ourselves the complacency of assuming the lessons have been learned. The chronicle of that suffering alongside the grim legacy of the industrial school complex is a scar on our history, but it is a part of our history.

We are morally obliged to future generations, and to past ones, to remember the successes and tragic mistakes that have shaped this country. That book should never be closed, and I am glad the women of the Magdalen laundries will ensure that their voices are heard and not condemned to the dark silence. Dr. Martin McAleese's report and the testimony of the brave women who spoke out are a dark chapter that demands to be read and one that we should never close.

Against that backdrop it is vital that we seek to preserve the historic record of the bleak period. In that regard I welcome the ongoing work of the UCD project and the insights provided by the McAleese report. Future generations should have ease of access to the record of this sad part of our history. Our task now is to work for the approximately 1,000 women who have survived. It is important that, building on the Taoiseach's apology, we ensure it has a real positive impact for the women involved. Words must be backed up by actions. The women must know that justice will be done.

In this light we welcome the appointment of Mr. Justice Quirke and look forward to his recommendations. We hope that a straightforward scheme will be devised which is, in the Taoiseach's words, simple, effective, non-adversial, non-litigious and compassionate. However, we must be mindful that the individual circumstances of each applicant may lead to a degree of complexity that, with the best will in the world, may prove difficult to avoid.

Presumably, any proposed scheme will take into account the differing periods of time each individual spent in a Magdalen laundry. It is reasonable to anticipate that those who were in the laundries for longer periods of time may receive higher levels of compensation, but the length of time spent in a laundry might not of itself be an adequate guide for compensation. Some Magdalen women who, on the face of it, spent a relatively short period of time in a laundry may have found that experience to have had an equal, if not a greater, impact upon them than others who were in the laundries for longer periods. Consequently, time of itself may prove to be a crude and unreliable yardstick. A broader range of factors other than time need to be considered. Issues such as individual psychological impacts, varying degrees of harshness of regime, etc. will need to be reflected in any proposed compensation scheme.

Tragically, thousands of Magdalen women are no longer with us. Of the total number only a relatively small number are still alive. In the context of deceased Magdalen women, the Taoiseach will be aware that the matter of deceased claimants was also considered under section 9 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. The spouses and children of deceased residents were enabled to apply for the redress to which those residents would have been entitled had they lived. A pressing question for those relatives must be dealt with by the Government. Is it the Government's intention to extend parity of treatment to the spouses and children of deceased Magdalen women?

I mention the foregoing matters of time endured, individual psychological impacts, varying degrees of harshness experienced and the entitlement or otherwise of spouses and children to apply to illustrate that the devising of a simple scheme is not without its difficulties.

We have previously called for a special unit to be set up in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take ownership of the holistic welfare concerns of the survivors. The dedicated unit should function as an interdepartmental hub to facilitate access to all State social services and financial entitlements due to surviving women and their families. It is important that a co-ordinated one-stop-shop style approach is taken to addressing the complex intertwined issues that the women face. I trust that Mr. Justice Quirke will reflect upon these and other matters. It is imperative that these deliberations are guided by the acute need for justice for the women involved. We look forward to the outcome of his deliberations.

Last week's apology should be viewed as a seminal first step in a journey of understanding and redress by the State for the long-suffering women affected by the laundries. I trust that the Government is fully committed to seeing that journey through to the end and ensuring that justice is finally done for the women of the Magdalen laundries.

The Magdalen report marks another milestone in the process of dealing with our sometimes difficult past. The manner in which thousands of women were incarcerated and forced to work without pay was in no way humane, decent, compassionate and in line with the core beliefs of the Church which ran the laundries, namely, love one's neighbour as oneself. It flew in the face of all ideals at that time, even though the situation was very different. I wholeheartedly endorse the apology by the Government on behalf of the people to the women who were placed in the Magdalen laundries, regardless of the means by which they ended up in such institutions. We know the State was heavily involved in sending women to them, so it is morally responsible to provide redress to the women who spent time in them.

Without in any way taking from the experiences of the Magdalen women, I want to raise another issue which is closely related, namely, the case of the women who were sent to the Bethany Home and ancillary Protestant homes. To the extent that their situation was similar to that of the women who were sent to the Magdalen laundries, they deserve similar treatment. It is worth focusing a little on this because the women who were sent to the Bethany Home suffered appalling treatment and a shocking number of babies in them lost their lives. Through the work of people like Niall Meehan and Derek Leinster, we know at least 219 babies are buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery, which is barely two miles from here, and that they came from the Bethany Home. It is shocking to think such a thing happened in such a place, and in a free and independent country.

The reason the Bethany Home has yet to be dealt with is that the women there were in a slightly different situation in that they came from a Protestant background. It is worth noting that just because they came from a Protestant background did not mean they were wealthy. They were neither wealthy nor privileged. Like the Magdalen women, they were sent to the home by an unmerciful, uncompassionate and judgmental society - again, flying in the face of the core beliefs of the institutions which ran it.

The question is whether the State was involved in the Bethany Home. The answer is unquestionably "Yes". It was inspected by State officials from the late 1930s and it received financial support from the State from at least the 1940s. Essentially, the State gave the Protestant community money with studied indifference to the plight of the women and children there. Basically, the State told the Protestant community to look after its own. Part of that indifference was the price these 219 babies paid with their lives.

In an article in last Saturday's The Irish Times, Breda O'Brien, a woman with whom I would not normally agree, although in this case I did, quoted from a report on an inspection of the Bethany Home by the deputy chief medical officer, Sterling Berry, in 1939. In his report, Berry reported that it was well recognised that a large number of illegitimate children were delicate and marasmic, which means they were suffering the effects of starvation. I stress that this is from the report of an inspection of the home by the State. Was the State involved, was it indifferent to their plight and did the State fail them? The answer is obviously "Yes".

I welcome the fact the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, has expressed sympathy for the cause of survivors and acknowledged a memorial should be created for those babies who died, something which is very important to the Bethany survivors, some of whom I have met. It is important these survivors do not become invisible people or be forgotten about because they did not quite come under the same system as the Magdalen women. Like me, the 20 who survive are citizens of this State and they deserve to be listened to and be heard. I urge the Government to ensure that the Bethany Home survivors group is not forgotten about. It is the very least they deserve from the State which failed them.

Thinking of Magdalen laundries conjures up an image of a hidden history of Ireland because of their ugly nature. I always have difficulty referring to them as "laundries" or "factories". In truth, they were prisons - places in which those who were unfortunate enough to be incarcerated had no freedom. They did not have the choice to leave and did not receive any payment for the work they did.

They existed not only because of the role of the religious but because of collaboration between the State and the Church. The Church during this very dark period was the dominant force and politicians hid from it. That is why these prisons were allowed to continue because with few exceptions - among them two people who were Members of this Parliament in the past - politicians turned a blind eye because of the influence it had. That allowed these prisons, or laundries, to continue.

This Government set up the inquiry which brought about this debate and it has apologised on our behalf for the neglect of politicians and the State in the past and has agreed to put in place a mechanism to provide compensation for those concerned. It is good to have reached this stage.

As others mentioned this evening and in the previous debate, the State was not the only party involved in this. To our shame as citizens of this republic, most of the people were put into these institutions by their families. Let us not delude ourselves about who was to blame. Many families put family members into them. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must face that.

There is also the role of the State and the predominant role of the Church, which owned and managed the so-called laundries. I have disagreements with some of the assertions in this report, a principal one being that these laundries did not make money.

They made lots of money. The proof is that during the late 1940s and 1950s these laundries were so competitive with commercial laundries that the commercial laundries closed down. In one case, 41 people lost their jobs in a private laundry located only ten minutes from this building. The Magdalen laundries took over its contracts. The laundries did make money. Those of us who had to leave this country and ended up among Irish communities in London met people there who were, as they described themselves, prisoners of Magdalen laundries. They confirmed that the laundries made money.

To conclude, not only has the church yet to apologise for its role in operating these prisons, it also has a role, because it made money, in compensating people. It is not for us politicians in this Dáil in a different age. We must stand up and say this. It is the only way of dealing with it. We must be honest with ourselves. The church has been as straight on this issue as it can be, and quite rightly so. It was complicit so it is now up to the church to give both compensation and an apology to these people, who were prisoners.

Last week we heard the eloquent words of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and many other Members of the House on this matter. However, nobody spoke as powerfully or in as dignified a manner as the women concerned. There is general agreement that nobody will speak as eloquently throughout this debate as the women who suffered so much in the past. Hopefully, the apology will begin to repair some of the damage that was done to these people's lives.

I commend the courage and bravery of the Magdalen women, who have long campaigned for an unreserved apology from the State. Their dedication and hard work finally paid off when the Taoiseach did the right thing, not only for the women but also for us, and apologised on behalf of the State. The downside is that it took so long and that more of the survivors are not with us and could not hear the apology. The big question that arises during this debate, when one steps back from the apology, is why it took the State so long to accept that it played a central and crucial part in supplying the women who were enslaved, starved, ill-treated, abused and treated with cold contempt.

Over two centuries the State used these institutions as places to deal with societal issues of illegitimacy, poverty, disability, so-called immoral behaviour, domestic and youth abuse and youth crime by incarcerating women in these institutions. The religious orders then used the incarceration of these women and girls to create a well supplied, conveyor system of unpaid labourers to work in their commercial and industrial laundries. These women and girls lived and worked in the most brutal conditions imaginable, as is clear from Martin McAleese's report. Why has it taken until 2013 for an apology to be made? This is something that must be addressed at some stage. Was it difficult to uncover the State's involvement in the laundries? Survivors have been speaking about these issues for years, so it would have easy enough for people to find information about them.

Survivors of these cruel institutions spoke of the cold atmosphere of the institutions as well as the rigid and uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer. Most women who were imprisoned in these institutions also spoke of their hurt due to the loss of freedom, the lack of information on when they could leave and the denial of contact with their families. Many have commented that Ireland was a harsh and unforgiving place in the 1920s, 1930, 1940s and later, but let us not forget that the last Magdalen laundry, on Sean MacDermott Street with 40 women still in residence, only closed in 1996.

The Magdalen women were excluded by the State from the 2002 residential institutions redress scheme as the State argued that it had no involvement in sending the women to these institutions and the institutions were privately owned. In September 2009, the then Minister for Education, former Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, said the State did not refer individuals to Magdalen laundries, nor was it complicit in referring individuals to them. I recall raising this issue when I was first elected to this House in 2002. Again, we were told there was no evidence. Various education Ministers said the same. Where was the information? What was new about this? Was the evidence hidden from the Government or has it been lying in plain sight for anybody from official Ireland to see or ignore, as they see fit?

It was only the courage and tenacity of the Magdalen survivors that forced the Government's hand on this issue. Through their unfailing spirit, commitment and hard work, these women, with the help of civil society groups, have kept the Magdalen laundries in the public domain. It was the hard work of the women and their advocates which ensured that on 1 June 2011 the UN Committee Against Torture recommended that the State should institute an independent and thorough investigation and, if appropriate, give redress, compensation and rehabilitation to former residents of the Magdalen laundries. Many believe that this was the catalyst for the Government to act on an issue which the State was so vocal in denying.

The McAleese report proves that the State was fundamentally connected to the laundries. There was also a wealth of information already available in the public sphere. The report found that 26% of the women who entered the laundries did so through State intervention or State involvement. The report also confirms that the State oversaw this brutal enslavement and system of unpaid labour as it failed to regulate and inspect the laundries in line with the Factories Act. The State not only failed to regulate and inspect the laundries, it also funded and financially supported them through sweetheart deals with the religious orders. The laundries also received State capitation and other top-up grants. We cannot simply say the laundries operated in different times. As I mentioned, the last laundry only closed in 1996. However, the women's incarceration was also illegal at that time. Their enslavement flew in the face of the League of Nations 1926 Slavery Convention and numerous other international and European legal conventions, to which this State was a signatory. The State's complicity in their enslavement was also contrary to all those conventions.

With regard to redress, the redress mechanism must be open, transparent, accountable and non-adversarial. Other speakers have also said this. It must be put on a statutory footing, have adequate oversight and provide for the right of appeal. The women should receive their unpaid wages and full pension entitlements. Finally, health and education services must be provided for them. This is the least the survivors deserve.

Reference has been made to Bethany Home. The courage of the Magdalen survivors forced the State to rectify the State's abuses, but others have been left behind. That is compounding the hurt of these individuals as they wait for somebody else to investigate and find the evidence that is already available. The women and children who survived similar shocking abuse in Bethany Home are also elderly and have also fought bravely and courageously for an independent inquiry to examine what happened in this residential home, which was open from 1921 to 1972. Between 1922 and 1949, more than 219 children from Bethany Home were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery. I attended the commemoration that was held there last year. I passed the plot quite regularly for years but it appeared to be a piece of waste ground. I did not know that these children were laid to rest there.

The list of horrendous abuse in Bethany Home is long and disturbing. Can we shy away from this black period in the State's history? In October 1939, for example, after an inspection of Bethany Home it was found that 14 infants had died since the previous inspection of the premises. There were 57 children living in the home at that time. The State refused to act, suppressed the truth and simply ordered the home to stop admitting Catholics. It was an Irish solution to an awful and sad problem.

There is evidence that one child died there in every three-week period between 1935 and 1940. It is scandalous. These shocking revelations were only discovered thanks, again, to the survivors' group and a couple of journalists. It was not the State. They have not only brought into the public domain the vast abuses that occurred in the home; they have also identified the occupants of dozens of unmarked graves.

I remember when the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, made an unreserved apology to all victims and survivors of abuse in residential institutions in 1999. There was a broad welcome for that apology, but 13 years later justice has still not been given to the survivors of those cold and inhumane institutions, of which there were many. It is a sad legacy with regard to this debate that there are other institutions than those to which the Taoiseach's qualified apology relates. It compounds the hurt of people who were in the likes of Bethany Home. Successive Governments have placed survivors on a seesaw of emotions. One minute they feel there will be a breakthrough and the next they are denied justice by another Government. The Magdalens went through that over the years. People hope a new Government will be enlightened by new information. It has gone on too long. I urge the Government to set up an independent investigation into the abuses that occurred in Bethany Home and to include the home in any redress scheme. I urge the Government to ease the hurt and pain of survivors before it is too late.

This is about those people who have been left out of the equation. I urge the Government to use this as a starting point. It should not just be about the cost to the State. It is also about the responsibility of the State to those who had their childhoods destroyed in the institutions they were put in. It should be in the past. The only way to resolve it is by looking outside the narrow confines of the State's involvement and costs. The bigger picture is of society. We must look at all of these institutions if we are to move on. I hope the Government will reflect on that during the course of the debate and consider including the people who have been left out.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. I cast my mind back to last week, when this was a different place. The Chamber was full and, more importantly, the Visitors' Gallery was filled with victims and survivors. The Taoiseach handled the situation well. There was some initial criticism of his response to the report but he was proven to be correct in the fullness of time. He handled the matter appropriately and took his time to reflect on the content of the 1,000-page report and meet with the survivors. He made a heartfelt, sincere and powerful speech and apology to the victims and survivors of the laundries. Most people in the Chamber on the night acknowledged that the speech played an important role in the healing process. The most important people in the debate were the survivors themselves who were in attendance and who stood and applauded the Taoiseach's speech with tears in their eyes. It was an occasion on which to be proud to be a Member of the House and it was poignant and emotional. Many of those senior Deputies who have been Members of the House for longer than I have said they had never experienced anything like the emotion that was palpable in the Dáil last Tuesday night.

I commend the brave women who shared their experiences with Dr. Martin McAleese and his interdepartmental committee. The courage they showed in recounting the haunting and hurtful memories that informed the McAleese report has, as the Taoiseach said, held up a torch to our past and illuminated some of the darkest recesses of our nation's recent history. Women were incarcerated in the Magdalen laundries for a variety of reasons or, in some cases, for no reason at all. Many were admitted for what has been described as the crime of being an unmarried mother. Others were admitted because they had physical or mental disabilities or, more simply, because they were deemed to be attractive or assertive. They were detained for undetermined periods in a culture of shame and fear, suffering daily humiliation and a regime of punitive physical labour. Shamefully, they were described as fallen women, but it was in fact society that had fallen.

Women were branded with an inescapable stigma and excommunicated from society because of what was understood to be a sense of morality but was in fact inherently immoral. No section of society is untainted by this stark period. The church, State, courts and Garda Síochána were all complicit in referring women to these institutions. Psychiatric hospitals, industrial schools and mother-and-baby homes were also complicit. As Deputy Eamonn Maloney said, parents sent their daughters to Magdalen laundries in an effort to avoid scandal. That attempt to avoid scandal constituted a greater scandal. The stigma attached to unmarried mothers during much of the period meant that many had their babies forcibly removed and put up for adoption without legitimate consent. Children were, in effect, exported as part of a system under which the State colluded with the church. Approximately 2,100 children were sent overseas for adoption in this way between 1949 and 1973.

The insight into this Ireland which the McAleese report provides is deeply saddening. It reflects a failure at every level of society, from those arms of the State which condemned vulnerable women to this fate to the ordinary people who unquestioningly accepted the propriety, rectitude and role of these damaging institutions. The brave survivors of the Magdalen laundries who have lived their lives in the shadow of the past should be made to know that we share their anger and pain. As citizens of the State and members of the church, these injustices and atrocities were perpetrated in our names. It is important that the publication of the report not only shines a light on our past but illuminates our path to the future. It is important that we reflect on the findings to foster a more inclusive society, accept and address social issues and never again remain silent and blinkered about injustices affecting our people. I am pleased, therefore, that the erection of a national memorial has been proposed in the context of making restitution for the survivors of the laundries. I also welcome the appointment of Mr. Justice Quirke to carry out a review and identify how best to support the victims and survivors and to meet their psychological and medical needs.

As Deputy Seán Crowe has said, it is very important that the support we now provide, be it financial or otherwise, is given openly and transparently. It is important that the resources of the State that will be committed to this are afforded as far as possible to victims and not tied up in legal wrangles. It is important to ensure the legal fraternity does not get involved in taking a huge slice of whatever resources the State makes available to victims. It is also important that the religious orders make some contribution to the compensation package. This is a debate on which Members on all sides are as one. It is important that the needs and concerns of the survivors and victims are put first and that we act in a speedy manner to address them.

It is with profound acknowledgement of the findings of the McAleese report that I welcome the opportunity to speak. I thank Dr. Martin McAleese and his committee for their work in producing this long-awaited report, which provides us with an indepth exploration of one aspect of a period of silent and latent societal degradation.

The women and children housed in these institutions and subjected to uncompromising regimes of physical labour endured vast deprivation. Following examination of the report, we must consider the societal inheritance of these asylums by the Free State, entry routes into them and the way the State has treated the victims subsequently. The State has been slow to respond to the deprivation suffered by women from 1922 to 1996.

The problem has a deep foundation in our history. The phenomenon of asylums for those considered at odds with society was present from the 18th to the 20th century. Following Catholic Emancipation in 1829, these homes or refuges were increasingly institutionalised and came under the direct influence of religious orders. That these institutional constructs were ever acceptable is a testament to the societal structures of the time. The psychological degradation suffered by these unpaid young women and girls at their most vulnerable was immense. The treatment of the laundries as factories under the inspection regime of the Factory and Workshop Act 1907 is further proof of the industrial level of their output. That the 1907 legislation applied to the laundries shows how the early State augmented the institutions and asylums set up in our colonial past. While the Factory and Workshop Act 1907 applied to these institutions, the report draws our attention to the Truck Acts of 1831, 1837 and 1896, which hold that it is prohibited to pay workers in factories anything but "coin of the realm". The early State's selective use of legislation shows how responsibility rests with social attitudes in the transfer of power at the time.

The inspectorate under the Factory and Workshop Act was amended in 1955, superseding and augmenting some of the 1907 legislation, but there was no change to the status of the laundries as workplaces under the inspectorate. The past failure of the State to recognise the victims of the Magdalen laundries was based on the concept that the State had little or no involvement. The report of the interdepartmental committee chaired by Dr. McAleese delved deeply into the fabric of this social inheritance. The report concludes that a quarter of all referrals to the asylums were made by the State. A total of 14,607 women and girls were admitted, of which the report deals with 10,012. For the first time, this report has comprehensively proven the integrated involvement of the State and the religious orders. The lack of choices for women in the Magdalen laundries is evident from the State entry routes to the laundries. Rather than providing a duty of care to individuals, people were incarcerated as an unpaid workforce. These entry routes included industrial and reform schools. The mean age of entrants from reform schools was 17.8 years of age, which is incredible. The lack of options given to women was further proven when some young girls on discharge from industrial schools were sent to the laundries on being recalled. The lack of care and compassion afforded by the society of the time to women experiencing difficult and harrowing conditions can be viewed in other State entry routes, including the mother and baby homes, social services, hospitals and psychiatric institutions. The Magdalen laundry system constituted a convenient asylum for many of those who were most vulnerable and in need of care.

The inspectorate and the inmates testified that living conditions in the laundries were clean and sanitary. While this might have been the case, the accounts from survivors detail the methods of control used at the time. They were rarely physically abused, but many were subject to constant psychological degradation. Although the inspections may have compared the cleanliness of the laundries with that of hospitals, this concealed a workforce none of whose workers were paid. The laundries' management system, enforced by religious authorities, viewed the staff as charges to be optimised through their work output. According to their accounts, women who refused to work sometimes referred to this as "going on the wren" and they were punished by being sent to bed early without their supper. This constant sadistic attack on self-esteem, self-worth and dignity created a lasting humiliating legacy of poor self-confidence for many victims in their later lives.

As recently as 2001 the voices speaking of the circumstances these women suffered in their incarceration had gone unheard. This report vindicated the testimony of both Magdalen survivor groups and pioneering individuals, justified their case to validate their integrity and gave them a feasible right to dignity, which our Government upholds. This right resonates deeply with all facets of Irish society, but most especially the victims and survivors of these institutions. That chilling legend "Work will set you free" resonates from a darker time in Europe's history. Despite the less brutal nature of Ireland's labour camps, it is a legacy which should be remembered carefully and addressed appropriately by today's society. The fact that these structures were given such a large and obvious role in enforcing a moral authority which was so blatantly at odds with true Christianity is startling.

While hindsight grants many dispensations to the reality of that time, the truth for many women and children victimised by the laundries is that this is a cruel and uncompromising facet of our history. It is a legacy which this comprehensive report finally uncovers. It is important that this legacy is now addressed to the fullest extent in the ultimate knowledge and understanding of the hardships and deprivations suffered by these women. The response by the Government to the report has been thorough. The survivors have been allowed to express themselves and discuss the issues facing them with the Taoiseach in Dublin and London. It is heartening that after the experiences they endured they will now receive compensation. I welcome the appointment of Mr. Justice Quirke and look forward to his review.

In my contribution to a debate on the Magdalen laundries last year, I joined with others in asking for an apology, as I believe that is the least these women deserve, in addition to redress and restorative justice. I especially welcome the sincere and heartfelt apology by the Taoiseach on behalf of the Government, State and citizens just a week ago. It was a night never to be forgotten by any of us fortunate enough to have been present and especially not by the women and their families who waited for so many years to hear those words, finally acknowledging the truth of the State's involvement.

This is my first opportunity since last week to publicly acknowledge the apology by the Taoiseach. It is fair to say that if the day the report was published was a low point, the apology last week was a high point and is to be commended. It must, however, be underpinned by the action promised. Many of those involved are older women, and if they are to take advantage of the few comforts left in their later years, these must be forthcoming in a generous and easy way, such that the women do not have to wade through a quagmire to get redress. These women must be our first concern at all times.

The McAleese report was defective, as its terms of reference were limited. While it did serve to highlight the State's involvement, the omission of 800 pages of testimony was important. It appears to underplay the violence that many of the women spoke about. Dr. McAleese worked diligently to produce the report in a limited time period and with limited resources, and he proved the central point.

Just as the doors were closed for so many years to the Magdalen women and were opened by the acknowledgement of the apology, those doors remain closed to the survivors of the Bethany Home. That needs to change now, because if we do not address it, that will be our legacy.

It was the late Mary Raftery who opened up the possibility of looking at the Ireland of the past, but it is not that far in the past. Some of us here, at least Deputy Durkan and I, share some memories of that Ireland. Mary Raftery consistently complained about the lack of availability of records. I recall an event at which she spoke, in which she complained specifically about records at the Department of Education and Skills.

If her legacy is to be acknowledged, then the availability of records must form some part of the redress. Up to 10,000 women were involved in these laundries. Accordingly, we will be dealing with hundreds when it comes to redress. Families will want to re-attach or reposition relatives who were in laundries, many of whom are no longer with us, and understand why they were placed there. Recently, I received an e-mail from an individual who falls into this category. His grandmother was in an industrial school and then a Magdalen laundry. He is now searching for her parents. Essentially, he is looking for the records, particularly those of the religious orders, to be part of the redress scheme and to be made available to people who have a connection with a laundry. He is not seeking to have these publicly available as he understands there are sensitivities with regard to the information involved. However, he has to go on his bended knees to the Sisters of Mercy to get information on his grandmother and her circumstances. He has made an exhaustive search in the General Register Office. From my experience of research in the office, I know one has to go through many records to prove a connection. In the case of this individual, he has gone through 60 records, which has incurred costs for him. It matters to him because he was very fond of his grandmother. He feels he has to make some redress to her to understand the circumstances behind her incarceration in an industrial school and, subsequently, a Magdalen laundry. His family's speculation is that his grandmother's mother died young and her children were handed over by their father to the order. In my research in the Roscommon-Ballinasloe area, I found many cases in which, when a mother died young, the church presumed it would collect the children and put them into orphanages or industrial schools. In the case I referred to, it may well be a maligned version of the truth when it comes to a widowed great-grandfather.

I understand why people want to comprehend what happened to their relatives. The stories behind these cases are part of the redress process. If we are going to face up to what happened with the laundries, we need to understand why it happened. It is important for people to understand why a member of their family was subjected to this treatment. The individual in question also stressed that he and his family are not looking for compensation for their grandmother. It is about putting their family back together. There are additional aspects of the redress scheme that are necessary. The religious orders must come up with some solution with regard to making available records that they still have on the laundries. The State also has a role to play in making available the records of the Department of Education and Skills. I accept that the records are personal to those involved and their families, and I am not seeking full disclosure on some form of website. However, there must be a sympathetic and thoughtful way of making those records available.

Even though I have highlighted the importance of the records, our key concern must be for those survivors who need to have redress delivered in a timely and compassionate way. However, this is not the totality of the problem. When there is engagement with the religious orders, the issue of records must be taken up with them and addressed. By being forthcoming, they could make an important contribution to a healing process that goes beyond those Magdalen laundry women who are still with us. For many families, it is an important issue to resolve.

Like other speakers, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak in this debate. It is interesting and ironic that we visit once again our dark past and the secrets with which our society lived. One ponders whether we still have secrets that we as a society have not necessarily addressed. It is always better to address issues of this nature at the time they emerge rather than in retrospect, which is what we are doing now.

As others have done, I congratulate the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on their excellent and poignant speeches on this matter just a week ago. Their speeches served to address in some small way and publicly highlight the issues that affected a number of women who were in the Magdalen laundries over the years. Some of them were sent there as children by institutions of the State and others by their relatives. Some even went voluntarily with the high hope that they would have an improved standard of living, education and safety. Can one imagine how frightened these children were when they were not in a position to determine what the future held for them and they were in someone else's custody? Kids by their nature are caring and trusting. They trust those around them to provide for, care for and look after them. Unfortunately, this did not happen as it should have happened in the Magdalen laundries. It did not happen because no one seemed to care, not even the institutions of the State or the parents who sent them there or society, which must have known what was happening in those laundries. How often have we spoken in retrospect of many other similar occurrences in other institutions when no one listened at the time? If there is one lesson we can learn from these debates, it is the need to address the issues that could cause problems in the future there and then in the present. If we could do that, we will have learned a great lesson and served society well.

Those women from the Magdalen laundries who so valiantly stood, worked, suffered and worried together over the years have done a great job in bringing to our attention the need to make absolutely certain that such occurrences are not allowed to happen again. We had a peculiar society. We may still have one, as there may be issues today that will be viewed differently in the future. It is very important that those institutions of the State which have a responsibility in any issue affecting men, women or children assert themselves and address the issues for which they are charged with responsibility. Failure to do so would be a serious negation of their duty.

I congratulate Dr. McAleese on his excellent report on the laundries. In some areas, it has been criticised for being less than sufficient. I must say it is remarkably conclusive, was delivered speedily and encompasses a significant volume of the issues affecting society at the time.