Ireland apologizes for Catholic laundry scandal

A woman hold a poster as relatives of victims of the Magdalene Laundries hold a candle lit vigil in solidarity with Justice for Magdalene Survivors and their families outside Leinster House, Dublin, Ireland, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. The women expect to witness an apology by the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on behalf of the people of Ireland for ignoring them and their treatment at the 10 laundries in the Republic between 1922 and 1996. The women will also hear details of how the State intends to assist them financially and in other ways as restitution.
AP Photo/Peter Morrison

DUBLIN Ireland's premier has issued a state apology to the thousands of Irish women who spent years working without pay in prison-style laundries run by Catholic nuns.

Former residents of the now-defunct Magdalene Laundries have campaigned for the past decade to get the government to apologize and pay compensation to an estimated 1,000 survivors of the workhouses.

Two weeks ago the Irish government published an investigation into the state's role in overseeing the laundries. It found that more than 10,000 women worked in 10 laundries from 1922 to 1996, when the last Dublin facility closed down.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny told lawmakers Tuesday that the laundry workers were victims of an Ireland that was "judgmental and intolerant, petty and prim." About 20 former Magdalene workers were listening in parliament's public gallery.

"The reality is..... that for 90 years ..... Ireland subjected these women and their experience..... to a profound and studied indifference," Kenny said, according to the Irish Times. "We now know that the State itself was directly involved in over a quarter of all admissions to the Magdalene Laundries."

Independent councilor Mannix Flynn spoke outside the Irish Parliament Tuesday night, and told the Irish Times the laundries were a kind of "regime of torture and a regime of slavery throughout this country," adding that there were "many more" such scandals to be uncovered.