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Incarceration of Magdalene women was an illegal act in its own time

12 February, 2013 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Speaking during tonight’s PMB on the Magdalene Laundries Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the State’s complicity in the incarceration of women in the Magdalene Laundries as an illegal act in its own time.

Deputy McDonald said: 

“There is a simple truth. The State was complicit in the incarceration of women in the Magdalene Laundries and this was an illegal act in its own time. 

“Incarcerating women in the Laundries flew in the face of the League of Nations 1926 Slavery Convention, the 1930 International Labour Organisation Forced Labour Convention, the 1957 UN Supplementary Slavery Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. Ireland signed up to all of these legal protections. 

“It is simply wrong of the government to try and pretend differently, as if to suggest we are now to consider the Magdalene Laundries through a contemporary prism. 

“The forced labour and incarceration of the women and girls in the Magdalene Laundries was an illegal act and the States complicity is writ large. 

“Surviving women of the Magdalene Laundries have told their stories in written submissions, personal testimonials and through a wealth of archival evidence. It is not hard to understand the kind of terror the women and girls must have felt held in these institutions. 

“We need to be very clear that what we are looking for is an apology that openly and fully acknowledges failure of the state to protect these women. We need an unqualified apology that includes every woman and girl held in these institutions. This apology must include those held Stanhope Street and Summer Hill. 

“It will be a profound tragedy if the government succumbs to the circling of the wagon’s by the State bureaucracy in its efforts to protect the state from liability.  Fine Gael and Labour’s response to this tragedy is as relevant to women and their role in society today as it was in the decades prior.” ENDS

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