THE POINT-BLANK refusal of nuns to compensate women incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries cannot be the final word on the matter, survivors campaigner Sally Mulready has said.
It has emerged that all four of the religious congregations that ran the brutal Laundries have rejected personal appeals from Ireland’s Justice Minister to make a financial contribution to the Irish Government’s £50m redress scheme.
The news has been met with shock and outrage by Magdalene survivors, thousands of whom are estimated to have fled to Britain.
Some have called on Church-goers to boycott Mass and others have demanded that the Irish Government strips the congregations of their State funding.
“I am very disappointed that the nuns will not make a contribution, incensed really,” Ms Mulready told The Irish Post.“This sends out a very awful message to women who suffered and it cannot be the final word.
“It is really important that the nuns make a contribution to the scheme. They have to at least make a gesture.”
Ms Mulready, who led the campaign for justice for Magdalene survivors in Britain, added that the congregations’ decision “is not a rejection of the State. It is a rejection of the Magdalene Laundry women and it is a rejection of their experiences.”
Her comments were backed up by fellow campaigner and Magdalene survivor Phyllis Morgan, who said: “I think this is dreadful. I cannot believe they are not going to do something towards this fund. I thought they would have done the decent thing.”
Ms Morgan added that in personal meetings she has had with members of the congregations involved, they have said they do not feel like it is their responsibility to compensate survivors.
“Some of the nuns are saying ‘we are not the abusers, so why should we pay for the sins of our sisters’,” she said. “That is the way they are looking at it. I have had meetings with the nuns — quite fruitful meetings — but I always heard them saying that they are not the abusers.”
When contacted by The Irish Post, each of the four congregations — the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity — declined to comment on why they will not be contributing to the redress fund.
The scheme will see Magdalene Survivors awarded between €11,500 and €100,000, depending on how long they spent in a Laundry.
Speaking in the Dáil this week, Justice Minister Alan Shatter described the congregations’ decision as “very disappointing”.
“It is my view that the congregations have a moral obligation to make a reasonable contribution to the fund required under the scheme and that view is shared by my Cabinet colleagues,” he said.
“It is a view I believe that will be shared by a majority of people outside this House.
“I hope that all four congregations will further reflect on the response we have received from them and will again consider making a contribution to the fund and reducing the burden imposed on taxpayers throughout the State.”
The Minister added that the orders will co-operate fully in helping women access the records of their time in a Laundry, which is needed to apply to the restorative justice scheme announced last month.
They will also continue to care for more than 100 elderly Magdalene women who remain in their care.
Responding to criticism from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams about the Government’s acceptance of the orders’ decision, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he has no intention of taking legal action against the orders and could not take away their charitable status.
Ms Mulready described criticism of the Government as “complete nonsense” and “totally unfair”, saying: “In 27 months this Coalition Government did what the previous Government would not do in 14 years.
“The focus for me is not on the Government, the Government has done its bit. The focus is on those nuns. The issue here is that the nuns have a moral duty to make a contribution.”
Ms Mulready added that she now plans to meet with the British-based Magdalene women to discuss what they will do next and will be writing to the congregations personally.