The women often spent years in these residential workhouses doing menial labor while being denied access to education. Among the work they did: laundry for local hotels, hospitals and prisons; scrubbing floors; and making rosary beads that were sold by the church.
Their efforts were so much part of the fabric of society that the Irish prime minister said: ‘‘We swapped our scruples for a solid public apparatus.’’
A couple of weeks ago, upon release of the report, Kenny expressed regret for the mistreatment of the women forced into the Magdalene laundries. But he did not offer a full governmental apology.
What led him now to issue a full-fledged apology? He spent time speaking with surviving victims of the Magdalene laundries, an experience he called ‘‘humbling and inspiring.’’
It’s one thing to read a report, however detailed and heart-rending. It’s another to meet people victimized by a systemic atrocity perpetrated by the two most powerful institutions in Ireland — the state and the Catholic Church.
Kenny announced he has appointed a judge to determine financial compensation for the 1,000 women still alive who were incarcerated in the Magdalene laundries. He also promised government funding for a memorial to ensure this sordid chapter of Irish history will not be forgotten.
These are essential steps, for after an apology, amends must be made.