Four congregations say they are willing to assist in all other aspects of recommended package
The four religious congregations that ran the Magdalene laundries have told the Government they will not make any financial contribution to the multimillion-euro fund set up to recompense former residents.
The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund, which could cost up to €58 million.
However, it is understood they have said they are willing to assist fully in all other aspects of the package recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke in his recent report, including the assembly of records and looking after former residents who remain in their care.
A spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said he was “disappointed” with the decision of the four orders not to make a financial contribution.
He will brief his ministerial colleagues about the situation at the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning.
Three of the four orders contacted through a spokesman were not prepared to make any comment at this point in time.
The Government announced the scheme last month after Mr Justice Quirke had conducted an examination of the various options to compensate the women who lived in the laundries, many of whom are now elderly.
The minimum payment was €11,500 for women who spent three months or less in a laundry and the maximum approved was €100,000 for those who were residents for 10 years or more.
Groups representing the women argued that higher awards should have been made available to those who had been long-term residents.
There was no onus on any applicant to show they had suffered hardship, injury or abuse. Some 600 women are reckoned to be eligible. The scheme is expected to cost between €34.5 million and €58 million.
When the scheme was announced, Mr Shatter said taxpayers expected the four religious orders to share the burden and make a contribution to the scheme. He would not be drawn on the amount he expected them to contribute.
The scheme follows on from a full apology on behalf of the State made to the survivors by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this year, in which he said that nobody should have been subjected to the conditions they endured.
That apology came in the wake an investigation by former senator Martin McAleese into the running and conditions within the laundries which were in operation for the best part of a century.
The report also established that the State had played a significant role in the continued operation of the laundries.
Is the Catholic Church’s hard line on abortion legislation an acceptance that its influence over the Irish state is over? « The Secular Society
Here are some interesting twists in the abortion debate in the Republic. As Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic newspaper noted yesterday Armagh’s new-boy-to-be Eamonn Martin has been clear in ways his soon-to-be predecessor Sean Brady never was. As he also added, Rome will be pleased.And as Kelly rightly observes, polls can be wrong, especially if there is a referendum coming up: Nevertheless, the latest MRBI/IPOSOS poll on whether there should be legislation as opposed to guidelines is still pretty overwhelmingly in favour…Asked if they were for or against the heads of the Bill to legislate for the Supreme Court X judgment of 1992 permitting abortion where a mother’s life is in danger, 75 per cent said Yes, 14 per cent said No and 11 per cent had no opinion.Supporters of both Coalition parties were the strongest backers of the legislation with 79 per cent of Fine Gael voters favour; 78 per cent of Labour; 77 per cent of Sinn Féin and 74 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters.People over 65 were the least enthusiastic about the legislation with 60 per cent in favour and 26 per cent against. The 25 to 34 age group was the most strongly in favour but there were large majorities across all age cohorts.The best-off social categories were strongest in support of legislation while farmers and the poorest DE social group were the least enthusiastic. The thing is that there won’t be a referendum on this issue. The referendum will be in the chamber, and this is where the church’s rather intemperate (not to mention very general) threat of ex communication was aimed. And it has caused a lot of difficulty. Micheal Martin had intended to march his party through on a whip, but was the first to relax and for the first time in his party’s history allowed his TDs have a free vote. We’ll see later on whether there are consequences to letting ‘soldiers of destiny’ have such a free hand. Meanwhile Enda Kenny, posing as the most unlikely secular hero in the history of the state is choosing the book of statute over the book of church law and in the process denying a party a free vote that’s been accustomed to having one in times past. The world turned upside down? Political insiders argue that the church could have chosen a more conciliatory line on the X case legislation. And that in alienating the political classes they may stand in future to have fewer allies when it comes to defending the real bulwark against abortion in the constitution if the current drift towards secularism continues: Article 40. 3. 3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right. That, the Church may calculate, may a price worth paying in order to save its own spiritual soul. There appears to be two way commerce going on here. In taking a much harder, fundamentalist line the Church is finding more coherence in its own moral arguments, whilst accepting, perhaps that its influence on matters of state in Ireland are long since over. With Thanks to Mick Fealty, via Is the Catholic Church’s hard line on abortion legislation an acceptance that its influence over the Irish state is over? « The Secular Society.
The tactical astuteness of Fine Gael TDs opposed to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is impressive. Rather than confront Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a single, explosive challenge to his leadership, they have eked out their resistance in the hope of securing legislative amendments or, at least, the prospect of early party forgiveness. By staggering their challenge, they have sought to minimise the offence created. Any doubt has been removed by already expelled individuals who insist they are not members of a cabal and who aspire to represent Fine Gael in the future. While the Bill is being debated, the scale of eventual opposition remains uncertain. On the basis of a recent Irish Times opinion poll, which showed general Fine Gael support for legislation at 79 per cent and opposition at 16 per cent, the defecting deputies could number between six and nine. Public opinion, however, is not always reflected in the pattern of Dáil voting. The tyranny of the party whip and the prospect of expulsion and career damage are powerful conditioning factors while, on the other hand, a free vote encourages outside interests to apply pressure and for TDs to engage in vote-poaching at constituency level. How else to explain the Fianna Fáil vote? Party leader Micheál Martin showed a deal of courage when he spoke in favour of the Government Bill and said it would provide necessary protection for the lives of women and fulfil Constitutional and international requirements. Having secured a free vote, however, his colleagues opted for traditional opposition tactics and 13 out of 19 voted against the measure. If opinion within Fianna Fáil is taken as a template, no more than four TDs should have rejected the Bill on the grounds of conscience. Their actions appear to have been an attempt to target unhappy Fine Gael, Labour Party and Sinn Féin voters while, at the same time, signalling concern with Mr Martin’s style of leadership. Willie O’Dea was quick to declare his support for Mr Martin, even as he struggled to explain his position on the legislation. A Second Stage vote is normally regarded as being on the principles of a Bill. Mr O’Dea supported the principles of the Bill but voted against it, explaining that if a review clause was introduced at a later stage he might change his mind. An equally unconvincing approach was adopted by European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton and by a number of her Fine Gael colleagues. They rejected the principles underlying the Bill but voted for it on the grounds that it might be amended. Support for this legislation is remarkably uniform across all political parties. When Catholic Church pressure failed to ramp up Fine Gael defections, a majority of Fianna Fáil TDs went in search of disaffected voters. It’s what drives politics.
“The contempt shown by Anglo Irish Bank for the Irish people and for their welfare and their public institutions was probably not very different from the attitude taken up by some of the other banks. We just do not have first-hand aural evidence of the …
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In Ireland, transcripts of telephone conversations between employees from 2008 at Anglo Irish Bankhave caused a massive outrage. In the tapes, the workers make fun of the government’s decision to guarantee bank liabilities at the height of the …
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Irish PM shocked by ‘vulgar’ Anglo Irish Bank tapes
New Straits Times
BRUSSELS : Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Friday he was thunderstruck by leaked tapes at the centre of a scandal at the bailed-out Anglo Irish Bank which he said has tarnished Ireland’s reputation. But Kenny said after an EU summit in Brussels …
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Mocking Germans Adds Irish Insult to Banking Injury
Irish politicians say jibes at Germans by some of the country’s former bankers undermine their case for securing help to cut the 64 billion-euro ($83 billion) bill for saving the financial system. John Bowe, a former executive at the now defunct Anglo …
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Anglo Irish Bank scandal ‘damages democracy’, Angela Merkel says
Angela Merkel has expressed “contempt” for the disgraced Anglo Irish Bank executives caught on tape mocking Germany’s involvement in the institution’s €30bn (£25.7bn) bailout. The German chancellor delivered a strong condemnation of the revelations, …
BRUSSELS (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday blasted newly disclosed comments by former directors of Ireland’s most notorious bank, who mocked foreign depositors and conspired to conceal the true scale of their losses while winning a …
Speaking at the EU summit in Brussels, Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, gives his response to recordings of Anglo Irish Bank staff joking about a bailout deal and mocking Germany. His comments follow an accusation from the German chancellor …
Following the release of tapes of Anglo staff discussing how they present their case for support, in the lead up to the bank guarantee, there are more revelations in todays Irish Independent (which has been breaking the story). You can listen to the tapes via the Indo’s website (at the links above), but here are… read full article
Irish ‘rage’ after bank manipulated multi-billion bailout
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Top Irish Bankers Hoodwinked Government Over Bailout, Secret Recordings Show
A top banker with the financial institution that almost bankrupted Ireland boasted that he had picked the figure of €7bn (£5.9bn) they told the Irish government was needed to rescue the Anglo Irish Bank “out of his arse.” Taped phone calls between two …
David Drumm, former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, tells a senior manager at the bank in the latest tape revelations: “We won’t do anything blatant, but . . . we have to get the money in . . . get the f***in’ money in, get it in.” Photograph …
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Pedestrians walk past the Anglo Irish Bank head offices, in Belfast March 25, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Cathal McNaughton. By Sam Cage and Conor Humphries. DUBLIN | Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:19pm BST. DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s deputy prime minister laid in …
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Ireland’s rage over Anglo-Irish rescue revelations is justified – Enda Kenny
Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, said Irish people were entitled to be angry about revelations that an executive at the firm that almost bankrupted the country boasted he had picked the €7bn (now £6bn) figure purportedly needed to rescue Anglo …
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Irish bankers ‘hoodwinked’ government over bailout, secret recordings show
Kenny Faces Irish Bank Inquiry Calls as Anglo Tapes Released
Senior figures in the former Anglo Irish Bank, John Bowe and Peter Fitzgerald, were recorded discussing how the toxic lender was seeking a €7 billion rescue fund, but that it needed more. read full article
Irish Government to Push for Banking Inquiry
Wall Street Journal
DUBLIN—The Irish government is determined to implement new laws to help launch the country’s first wide-ranging inquiry into the causes of its banking debt crisis and help assuage “the rage and the anger” of people deeply affected by it, Irish Prime …
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Anglo Irish still offering insight into banks’ crisis
A phone call between two executives at Anglo Irish – just days before Dublin issued a blanket guarantee to its banks in mid-September 2008 – suggests the bank wilfully deceived regulators about its financial health, an allegation that John Bowe, head …
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FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan had no idea the Anglo tapes existed until he read yesterday’s Irish Independent. read full article
ANGLO Irish Bank boss David Drumm laughed about “abusing” the bank guarantee and warned his executives not to be caught abusing it, the Anglo Tapes reveal. read full article
A recorded conversation between senior officials at former Anglo Irish Bank appears to confirm what the public has long suspected: that the Central Bank and last government were bounced into bailing out the banking system and lacked detailed knowledge of the extent of the crisis. The manner in which this exercise was conducted: through obfuscation, veiled financial threats and political pressure, exposes a clientelist system where power and contacts are paramount and nobody is held to…. read full article
John Bowe says he deeply regrets tone and language he used in phone call read full article
Did you hear the one about the pimp, the prostitute and the war criminal? It’s a national joke, according to left-wing TD Clare Daly.
Unlike the US in Guantanamo Bay, Ms Daly took no prisoners as she declared war on the G8 “fawn-fest” and everyone involved.
Fresh from being branded a “urinating clown” relieving himself on the Seanad by an irate Fianna Fáiler, Enda Kenny was down-graded to brothel-keeper-in-chief by Ms Daly as she laid into the “slobbering” over Michelle Obama and her husband — aka Mr “War Criminal”.
“It is difficult to decide which is worse, the outpourings of President Obama and his wife or the sycophantic fawning over them by the political establishment and sections of the media,” the United Left Alliance TD lamented.
In a lengthy leader’s questions broadside which the pimp — sorry, Taoiseach — branded a “rant”, Ms Daly let rip. Not even self-styled national saint Bono escaped her wrath.
Getting slightly confused about whether Enda was actually pimp or prostitute, Ms Daly declared: “Is it not the case that he has showcased us a nation of pimps prostituting ourselves in return for a pat on the head?
“We were speculating this morning about whether the Taoiseach would deck out the Cabinet in leprechaun hats decorated with stars and stripes to mark our abject humiliation.”
Though she didn’t mentioned the U2 star by name, he was clearly in her sights: “While we had separate and special news bulletins by the state broadcaster to tell us what Michelle Obama and her daughters had for lunch in Dublin, there was very little questioning of the fact that they were having lunch with Mr Tax Exile himself.”
A strange statement from someone who stood solidly by the Dáil’s very own tax cheat, Mick Wallace, to such an extent they could have their own mangled moniker — Click (Clare and Mick) — but Ms Daly was on a roll by this stage.
Turning céad mile fáilte into a hundred thousand digs, the Dublin TD, who describes herself as an internationalist, sounded oddly nationalistic as she took umbridge at Michelle daring to feel Irish: “The statement that Mrs Obama was glad to be home was barely challenged even though ‘home’ is a country she has been in for less than one week and to which her husband has only tenuous links.”
Go home Michelle, Clare does not want you or your husband here.
“Is the US president seeking the hypocrite of the century award?” Ms Daly asked in a question we suspect was rhetorical.
“The reality is that, by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal. This is the man who facilitated a 200% increase in the use of drones which have killed thousands, including hundreds of children,” the TD added in reference to Barack Obama’s call on youngsters in the North to seize the prize of peace.
Buried underneath all the name-calling, Ms Daly was actually trying to make a serious point about the use of Shannon by the US to arm Syrian rebels.
“The Taoiseach said no arms ever came through Shannon Airport. In 2012, some 548 US planes landed in Shannon Airport. How does he know what was on them if they were never examined?” she asked.
Mr Kenny branded the remarks “disgraceful”, but the image lingered of Enda slumped in a seedy Oirish doorway touting for trade with his little leprechaun hat on.
With president at G8, Michelle Obama enjoys Irish links
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Irish Prime Minister Says Faith Should Not Affect One’s Public Service
The pro-abortion Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who drew protests for delivering the commencement address and receiving an honorary degree from Boston College, has said that personal faith should play no part in legislation, reports the Irish Examiner.
G8 leaders enjoy Comber spuds and Irish coffees at working dinner
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Parliament Committee, Irish delegation discuss cooperation
Petra News Agency
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Mari Steed was two years old when she was adopted from Ireland by a Flourtown family. Years later, her search for her birth mother turned up the Magdalene Laundries’ horrifying legacy, and Steed wants justice—along with an apology from the Catholic church.
Mari Steed’s fingers trembled as she tapped commands on her laptop.
The unprecedented apology was about to be streamed online, projected onto a big screen in the conference room of the Philadelphia World Affairs Council. As the group’s director of technology and new media, Steed had set up numerous live feeds before. But her hands had never shaken.
Today was personal. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny was going to use a session of Parliament to issue an apology, acknowledging what Mari Steed had known for years: that for nearly a century, the Irish government had participated in the imprisonment and abuse of thousands of women whose only crime was that they’d been orphaned, or abandoned by their families, or gotten pregnant outside of marriage. They were known as the Magdalenes. And Mari’s birth mother had been one of them.
The government had long touted a party line about the Magdalenes: They had voluntarily entered the institutions where they’d been treated like slaves, had willingly relinquished their children. But now, the Irish government could no longer deny the disgrace it had abetted.
And so today, Ireland’s prime minister would officially apologize to the surviving women—all of them elderly. And Mari would begin to make peace with the country that had betrayed the child she had been and the mother who had borne her. The conference-room screen flickered to life. Mari leaned in to watch, her co-workers gripping her hands in support.
“What we discuss today is your story,” Kenny said in the televised session that practically all of Ireland was watching. “What we address today is how you took this country’s terrible ‘secret’ and made it your own. Burying it, carrying it in your hearts here at home, or with you to England and to Canada, America and Australia, on behalf of Ireland and the Irish people. But from this moment on, you need carry it no more. Because today, we take it back.”
A month after the announcement, Mari Steed, 53, is curled on the living room sofa in the cozy Levittown home she shares with her grown son and daughter. A short, pretty woman with a husky laugh, thick black hair and dark eyes, she’s a dead ringer for her biological mother, Josephine Fitzpatrick, now 80, whose face is included among the framed family photos on display. Freezing rain batters the picture window that looks onto the backyard; two huge dogs snooze contentedly on the carpet. The aromas of fresh-brewed coffee and just-baked soda bread fill the air. A few Irish musical instruments hang on the wall, a nod to the country Mari left behind when she was adopted by a suburban Philadelphia couple at the age of 18 months.
“You wait all this time for an apology, and you think, ‘I wonder what they’ll say? How much will the government actually admit to? What if they still lie?’” she says. “But it was better than we had hoped for.”
Adoptees never know what they’ll find if they manage to locate their birth parents. It’s an understatement to say that Mari never expected that her reunion with Josephine—whom she calls Josie—would help correct the narrative of Ireland’s past. Like so many others before her, 20 yearsago, she’d gone looking for her birth mother simply to discover who she was.
Her adoptive parents raised her in Flourtown, and “told me the usual thing that parents tell their adopted children: that I was special, I was chosen. They even kept my first name, because they said I walked off the plane answering to it.” Two years later, they adopted a son as well. Mari had what she calls a “wonderful” childhood, attended Bishop McDevitt in Wyncote, marched with the drill team, starred in school musicals: “I wasn’t conscious, growing up, of some hole I had to fill.”
She might never have gone looking for the woman who relinquished her if fate hadn’t intervened in a cruel and ironic way. In her senior year, Steed became pregnant by her boyfriend, a junior. Her parents shipped her to St. Vincent’s, a home in Upper Darby for unwed mothers; the days were long and dull, peppered with withering comments from the nuns about her stupidity. On her rare visits home to Flourtown, young Mari was kept indoors, lest her swelling belly attract neighborhood gossip.
Mari fantasized about setting up house with her boyfriend, of raising the baby with him. But the decision had been made for her: Her daughter, to be named Erin, would be given up for adoption.
“I was in a daze,” Mari recalls. “There was a hospital photographer who asked if I wanted a picture. I said yes, but then she came back and said, ‘I’ve been told I’m not allowed.” I got ballsy and said to my social worker, ‘If I don’t get a picture before I leave, you don’t get the baby.’ Giving up Erin was the most wrenching experience of my life. I cried for weeks.”
She lasted a year at West Chester University, devolving into a party girl. She got a job in banking and moved to Florida. There she married an abusive, addicted man and had two children with him before he committed suicide right in front of her. “My husband was a deeply disturbed man, but I couldn’t see that when we first met,” she says. “I felt so bad about myself. I didn’t think I deserved better.”
Mari knew it was time to deal with the shame and pain of losing Erin—and began to wonder if being taken from her own birth mother was something she needed to come to grips with, too. She felt it was too soon to search for her own daughter (“I didn’t want to do anything until she turned 18”); instead, she began to look for the woman who’d packed her off to America clad in a sweet hand-smocked dress, clutching a stuffed handmade doll. Mari’s parents only knew that she had been born at Bessborough, a home for unwed mothers in Cork.
With that scant information, Mari leapt into the adoption-rights river, whose current was growing stronger through the 1990s as adoptees in the U.S. began clamoring for the right to know their origins.
“I don’t remember leaving Ireland,” she says. “But at 18 months, I certainly must have known who my mother was. What was it like for me to lose her? What was my birth mother’s story? I only had Erin for two days. It was devastating to give her up. How do you give up a toddler?”
Her 10-year search twisted and turned like the roads through Donegal. The dead ends were devastating; the obfuscation from church and state officials was infuriating. But after each setback, a “search angel” from the world of international adoption-rights would serendipitously appear to steer Mari to a critical document or an obscure public record. “I felt led—it’s the only way to explain it,” Steed says. “Just when I’d want to give up, I’d get an email out of the blue.”
“Mari is charismatic and dogged,” says Barbie Bowman, a longtime friend. “Where other people see impossible obstacles, she says, ‘How do we get around this?’ If anyone was going to find her birth mother, it was going to be Mari.”
Years passed. Eventually, Mari had a name. She found Josephine Fitzpatrick’s phone number in England and called her. But suddenly overcome with anxiety—would Josephine be frightened by an unexpected call? Angry? Dismissive?—she hung up the moment she heard the voice on the other end say “Hello.” Still, that one word convinced Mari she had the right woman. “Her voice was exactly like mine,” she says.
She asked for advice from Judy Campbell, an adoption researcher in London. Campbell offered to approach Josephine’s former landlord, a friend who regularly saw Josephine and her husband, Les, at Sunday Mass. Campbell asked the landlord to relay that an American woman was searching for Josephine. The landlord reported back that Les’s excited response was, “That must be the baby she gave up!”
Mari’s phone rang one day at 5 a.m.
“Josephine’s husband is a doll!” Campbell told her. “He says Josephine is getting her hair done, but she’ll be back in an hour and a half. He says to call her then!”
“Oh my God,” Mari replied. “Is this happening?”
For 90 minutes she paced, wondering what she would say to the mother she hadn’t seen in 50 years and did not remember. She dialed the phone.
“Hello?” said Josephine tentatively.
“Hello, Mom,” said Mari, holding the phone so tight that it would be hard to uncurl her fingers later.
“Oh, Mari, my Mari!” came the voice that sounded so much like her own. “Is it really you? Oh, my dear, dear Mari!”
The two wept and laughed for 45 minutes, introducing themselves to each other, marveling at similarities, hungry for details of lives that had played out 3,000 miles apart. “The feeling, oh my God,” recalls Mari, hand on her chest. “It was so close, like we’d been speaking every day of our lives.”
By then, she had become a bit of an expert on Irish adoption issues. Scheduled to speak at an upcoming conference in Dublin, she told Josephine that she and her children would make a stop in London first, so everyone could meet.
“So we’re walking out of Heathrow Airport, and this van pulls up,” says Mari. “Les is driving. And there was Josie. I can’t even describe what it was like to see her. She gets out of the van and she’s tiny. She’s not even four-foot-10. I’m like a giantess next to her. And we fall into each other’s arms. She’s crying, Les is crying, the kids are crying. People are honking their horns, because they know something great is happening.”
Holding Josie close, Mari felt a shock of familiarity that let her know, in case there was any doubt, that this was indeed her birth mother.
“It was her smell,” she says. “I recognized her smell.”
Before beginning her search, Mari Steed had never heard the term “Magdalene.” She soon learned that her mother had been one. From the mid-19th through the late 20th century, Ireland dealt with its most desperate citizens—abandoned and orphaned children, the mentally ill, unwed mothers—by locking them out of sight in industrial and reform schools, mental asylums, mother-and-baby homes and, perhaps most infamously, what came to be known as the Magdalene Laundries.
These last were industrial laundries, run first by Protestant lay organizations, then by Catholic nuns. An estimated 10,000 women lived and toiled inside them. Some were “wayward girls” sent by family; others were orphans, or abandoned, or crime victims sent to the laundries by the courts, church or police. The girls ate paupers’ meals, suffered unspeakable neglect and abuse, and worked backbreaking hours doing laundry and sewing for no pay for hospitals, government agencies and the like. The laundries were named for Mary Magdalene, the biblical prostitute reformed by Christ. The wretched who suffered behind their walls were referred to, simply, as Magdalenes.
They were treated as slaves, beaten with straps, denied food, forced to lie prone in prayer for hours, sometimes sexually abused by groundskeepers or visiting priests. They lived lives fit for a Dickens novel. “Life was brutal for them,” Boston College associate professor James Smith wrote in his 2007 history of the Magdalenes. “Ireland was a new state and very concerned with forging a national identity of moral purity. So they hid away anyone who might be seen as shameful or lacking in respectability.”
Josephine was the fourth-born child of a single woman from County Wexford whose fed-up family finally told her to move to England, marry a good man, tell him nothing about the children she’d left behind, and settle down already. The first three of the woman’s children were raised by extended family. But Josephine was sent to a children’s home and, when she hit her teens, transferred to a Magdalene laundry in Cork run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Identified as a talented seamstress, she was put to work sewing and embroidering.
After 10 years, Josephine was sent to work in a Catholic hospital. Unprepared for the larger world and naïve around men, she became pregnant. Sent by her employers to Bessborough, a mother-and-baby home in Cork run by the nuns, she gave birth to Mari, who was cared for in a nursery while Josephine again sewed and embroidered, visiting at night to rock and sing her daughter to sleep.
“It was understood that she wouldn’t keep me,” says Mari. “Josie never felt she had a say in the matter. You have to understand—she’d been treated like property. She was a broken person.”
When little Mari was 18 months old, she was deemed ready for adoption. Josie wept as she sewed clothes for her little girl to wear to meet her new parents in the United States. On the day Mari was taken, Josie stood outside the home as the sedan carrying her daughter drove away. “She told me she wept and wept for days,” says Mari. “I knew exactly how she felt.”
Josephine moved to England. When her first husband died, she married Les. She had no other children. “Josie told me that she was terrified to ever lose another child,” says Mari. “She wouldn’t be able to stand the pain.”
Hearing her birth mother’s story did more than incite empathy in Mari Steed. It served as a call to action. She would get justice—for her mother, for every one of the forgotten Magdalenes.
In 1993, a mass grave in Dublin holding the bodies of 155 Magdalenes was discovered. There was not a single headstone to detail who they were or when they had died. Ireland was horrified to learn how little regard the nuns seemed to have had for the pitiable women in their care.
A group of advocates calling themselves the Magdalene Memorial Committee sought to commemorate the dead women, installing a memorial park bench on St. Stephen’s Green and gravestones at Glasnevin cemetary in Dublin for the 133 bodies they were able to identify through records. Mari, along with several other adoption advocates, didn’t think it was enough. All of the Magdalenes, not just the deceased ones, deserved closure.
So in 2003, they formed Justice for Magdalenes, or JFM, a nonprofit with a two-fold goal: to obtain an official apology from the Irish government for its part in violating the rights of the women who lived in the laundries, and to get compensation for those women for their unpaid labor.
For years, the Irish government met JFM’s demands with a yawn. Mari worried that the public believed the wrongs heaped on the Magdalenes were confined to a single laundry, and had been righted by a single memorial bench. So JFM took its allegations to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.
In a stunning proclamation, the committee found probable cause and ordered the Irish government to get to the bottom of what had happened in the laundries. “That was the turning point,” says Conall O’Fatharta, a senior reporter for the Irish Examiner. “For 10 years, no one in the government would listen to JFM. But when the UN said, ‘You have to look into this,’ the state was finally backed into a corner.”
On February 5, 2013, the Irish government released its report. Its conclusion was unequivocal: The state did, indeed, have direct involvement in the laundries; it owed the Magdalenes an apology, and the women were entitled to redress.
“What JFM accomplished was extraordinary,” says O’Fatharta. “I think I speak for many people when I say that I can only stand back and watch them with awe.”
Boston College professor Smith—who was so moved by JFM’s work that he eventually joined the group’s advisory committee—calls their work “staggering.” He’s admiring of Steed in particular. “What’s interesting to me is that Mari was one of Ireland’s 2,000 ‘banished babies,’ who were relinquished to the United States and whom no one expected ever to see again,” he says. “The state thought it could literally export its problem children and never be held accountable for it. No one ever expected those babies to grow up, find the Internet, do their research, and return to fight for themselves and their birth mothers. But Mari did. She and JFM have corrected the narrative of Irish history because of it.”
As for Mari, she feels as though her life has come full circle. She’s in constant contact with Josie; she’s also reunited with her own birth daughter. “There is so much love,” she says gratefully. “And for Josie, who thought she’d lost the only child she ever had, well, she has me back—plus grandchildren. She is so happy.”
Mari and JFM are monitoring Ireland’s proposed plans to offer compensation to the estimated 1,000 to 2,000 surviving Magdalenes. She worries, though, that the government isn’t doing enough to publicize the redress plan, and that survivors will learn of it only after it’s too late.
“We still have a lot to do,” she says. “This isn’t over yet.”
A new milk processing plant could give a huge boost to the south-east of the country creating over 2,000 jobs in spin-off industries.
And now the rub
the plant will only employ 76 people when it opens in two years’ time,
And now a bit of pure speculation
both the Government and the company claim it could spur about 1,000 extra farm jobs and another 600 local jobs as a knock-on effect of its construction.
There will also be 450 construction roles as the factory is built.
Glanbia said the plant will contribute around €400m a year to the local economy.
And now a bit of PR nonsense
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney hailed the news as “the biggest jobs announcement” of the year.
He also rejected concerns that the mooted 1,600 jobs may not end up being created.
“Anyone who questions that does not understand the agriculture sector. These numbers are based on reliable economic models and they are conservative figures. Now I just begin to wonder how much the minister really knows about agriculture. By bet is he is far more familiar with the word spin …
“These are real, Irish jobs. They cannot be moved overseas,” he claimed…. but they might well be invisible
Glanbia is building the plant to deal with a huge increase in the amount of milk its suppliers will produce when EU caps on milk production are removed in 2015.
Almost all of the milk will be exported to Asia, Africa and South America. Most of it will be sold as dry milk powder which can be used for infant milk formula, cheese and nutritional products.
What we are not told
No figures seem to emerge from this PR splurge as to how much Glanbia received in grants
After construction my bet is we will be lucky to see 200 jobs in total
The Labour party is in the midst of an internal storm. A storm the leadership is trying to control. We are not used to such events in the Labour party, associating them more with their partner FG and even more with the heyday of FF. However, heaves are not easy to organise or execute, just ask Richard Bruton and Leo Varadkar. It’s a game that requires huge political tact.
So the first thing to ask is why are Labour in this position? That’s simple, firstly they over promised at the election, the buck for that stops with the leader. Secondly, the perception is that Labour are being rolled over by FG. Eamon Gilmore has done himself no favours by being so determined to always show a united front with End Kenny. Distance and the odd falling out can destabilise governments but it is much better for your leadership.
The next question to ask is how serious are the rumours of a possible heave? They are pretty serious. I said at the start of the year that Eamon Gilmore was in a spot of bother and things have got worse since that. Labour are losing far too many personnel. The grassroots are feeling sidelined and angry. Now, we all know that in the normal course of events party grassroots don’t make the big decisions, however, once they start to get agitated they have enormous power as TDs feel the pressure and start to listen to people they are close to on the ground about the implications for their seat. All of those who have walked out of Labour parliamentary party are gone unless the leader changes. The only way to heal a rift is to move on from it and to do that, a leader must be changed. This is even true when a heave occurs. An FF leader never lost a heave vote. It’s what happed after that caused problems. Equally I have always maintained had Richard Bruton and Leo Varadkar and others not agreed to return to the FG front bench and held their nerve, Enda Kenny would not be Taoiseach today.
Labour are starting to realise that the only way they can convince people they are going to change and get tougher is if they start with a new face and perhaps also remove some others at cabinet. Pat Rabbitte and Brendan Howlin will be most certainly in the firing line.
Now, back up the horse, because all is not lost for Eamon Gilmore. He is rumoured to be talking to TDs. That’s a wise move, he needs to know what he’s dealing with then he needs a strategy. The first stage of this would be to try calm fears, and avoid an all out vote against him. Heaves are useless and get no where unless one of your front bench moves to support it. Gilmore can rest assured that he has strong support from his ‘old boys’ he has one weak link, Joan Burton. He needs to stop Joan making any attempts in the short term and just buy some time.
Joan has her own issues. She knows there are limits to what Labour can achieve. If she were to take over then she would certainly be expected to take a tougher line with FG and be far less chummy with them. That’s fine, she also knows that FG are desperate to remain in power and avoid an election so she could get a few big wins on that basis, but it would require brinkmanship and that will weaken the government. In reality such a strategy may start to halt the Labour decline, even gain them a few points but it wont be huge (a few points could be at least 10 seats saved though). However it’s unlikely the government would last full term, she would be looking at an election in 12 -18 months. Timing would be everything. She may well prefer if Gilmore could remain for another year and she could face such a strategy and timescale from next year. However, the opportunity may be presenting itself in the coming months. Timing is everything in such a strategy. This helps Gilmore as he may be able to keep Joan onside for the next while.
That’s valuable breathing space but then he needs to figure out how to use it. He needs to talk to Enda. The chummy façade needs to stop. FG need to realise that they are better off with Gilmore than whomever might replace him, therefore they need to find an issue that they can publicly disagree on, let it carry on, argue, and then allow Eamon a decisive victory that will shore up his support. It may hurt FG but its better than the alternative and if FG are really smart then they can surely find an issue that they know they can afford to lose on but matters to Labour.
That would allow Eamon Gilmore escape from his current predicament, but he’s on the ropes right now and there are a lot of ‘Ifs’ in that strategy. Those in Labour hoping for change need to be far more organised and need to know who they support. No matter how you look at it, Eamon Gilmore is now only Leader at the behest of Joan Burton, she can decide to loyally follow him until its too late (a bit like Micheál Martin did with Cowen) or she can ensure he is removed now and give Labour a fighting chance of showing a new image. The question is does she want the job? Such heaves require a certain steel, an ability to stand by what you do and accept the repercussions, they can even end your career. It needs enormous conviction. All sides will be tested in the months ahead
St Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world are facing an uncertain future following today’s announcement by the Irish Government that it has sold the popular saint, and his associated festival day, to Germany in a desperate bid to reduce Ireland’s crippling national debt.
Saint Patrick, who has been Ireland’s national saint for over 1500 years and who is believed to be the only Irish cleric in history not to have been implicated in a child sex abuse scandal, was sold at an EU auction last night for the sum of €7.3 million, according to Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
‘I understand that people might be upset about this, but Saint Patrick has not exactly done a lot of good for us over the years,’ said the Taoiseach. ‘Okay, so he got rid of the snakes for us, but quite frankly if it was a choice between no snakes or saving the country from being repeatedly invaded and ravaged, having half the population die in a famine and then the nation being left virtually bankrupt from a global financial crisis, then I, for one, would happily be arse-deep in anacondas right now.’
Early reports suggest that Saint Patrick will be relaunched as a new German folk character, ‘Der Leprakaun Fuhrer’, a vagabond who once ruled a faraway land which based its entire economy around transactions of magic beans which subsequently disappeared and left the country in economic ruin.
German minister, Franz Hagen, has told those who have planned St Patrick’s Day events not to worry. ‘St Patrick’s Day, or Heinzellmannchanfest as it will be called from now on, will be going ahead almost as normal this year, except that it will now be used to teach the world about the importance of efficiency and economic responsibility. As such, there will be no alcohol allowed,’ he added.
Following the success of the sale, the Irish Government is considering selling more of its national assets to further reduce its debt woes. The Netherlands have already expressed an interest in purchasing some of the Donegal mountains in an effort to make their country less flat and prone to flooding, while North Korea is said to be interested in buying County Leitrim to prove to its citizens that there are actually worse places on Earth to live. However, the Irish Government is still struggling to find a potential buyer for Bono after the U2 singer failed to reach his reserve price of nearly €5 at last night’s auction.