Magdalene Laundries Apology: Irish PM In Tears

Ireland's Prime Minister choked back tears as he issued an apology to thousands of women who were subjected to regimes of hard work and prayer in Catholic-run workhouses.

Enda Kenny, known as the Taoiseach, described the Magdalene laundries as "the nation's shame" as he said the state accepted its direct involvement.

"Therefore, I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, the government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry," Mr Kenny said.

During a moving speech, he also outlined plans to compensate the survivors.

The Irish government has appointed president of the Law Reform Commission Judge John Quirke to undertake a three-month review and make recommendations on payments.

Mr Kenny said payments would be made along with other support, including medical cards, psychological and counselling services and other welfare needs.

"The terms of reference for Judge Quirke will be published later today and I will also arrange for the representatives of the women to be fully briefed on this process," Mr Kenny said.

"When Judge Quirke has reported, the Government will establish a fund to assist the women, based on his recommendations."

Twenty women who were locked up in one of the laundries watched from the public gallery of the Irish parliament as the prime minister made his apology.

They and members of the Irish parliament then gave Mr Kenny a standing ovation as he concluded the apology.

"This is a national shame, for which I again say, I am deeply sorry and offer my full and heartfelt apologies," he said.

After he made the speech, several victims spoke of their relief that their anguish had been finally recognised.

Maureen Sullivan, who was 12 when she was sent to a Magdalene laundry when her father died, said Mr Kenny had given survivors their lives back.

"He didn't hold back on anything," Ms Sullivan said.

"He really did us proud. Now we can go on with our lives and we know that we've got an apology, and he's taken responsibility. It's just fantastic."

The state apology follows the publication of a report from former senator Martin McAleese, which revealed that the state was responsible for 24% of all admissions to the laundries - where girls as young as 11 were forced to work unpaid.

The inquiry found that 10,000 women were incarcerated in the workhouses, run by nuns from four religious orders, for a myriad of reasons - from petty crime to poverty, disability or pregnancy outside marriage.

The last laundry closed in 1996, at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin's north inner city.

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