By Louise Hogan
Monday November 30 2009
FORMER residents of the infamous Magdalene laundries are being sought in "complete confidence" by a group considering a class action lawsuit against the State and religious orders.
A number of victims, who earlier this month met with State representatives, have indicated they may consider suing over their mistreatment while in the care of the laundries.
The former Magdalene residents were excluded from the State redress scheme to compensate those who suffered institutional abuse, on the grounds that they were privately operated.
The group has sent letters to the religious orders who ran the Magdalene laundries requesting a meeting similar to that held at the Department of Justice.
Former residents' spokesman Ger Boland said they wanted to expand the numbers in their small group, some of whom have been struggling to get answers for more than 60 years.
"The 4th of November, 2009, marked a significant day for these women as five of them finally had the chance, for the first time, to speak to government officials about the cruelty and inhumane treatment they have suffered as Irish citizens," Mr Boland said.
The group, who all featured in the documentary 'The Forgotten Maggies', appealed to other women who worked in the laundries to contact them.
Mr Boland believes far more than 200 former residents must still be alive. He pointed out that people associated the laundries with women who had children out of wedlock, but this was not always the case.
A Cork legal firm is willing to take on any potential legal action.
"I want to give each woman who was in the Magdalene laundries the opportunity to come on board with this campaign," Mr Boland said. Since the meeting on November 4, the group has been contacted by six more women.
Maureen Sullivan (57) urged other women to come forward and contact them.
"There is nothing to be ashamed about, it is the people who ran these places who should be ashamed," she said.
At the age of 12, Ms Sullivan ended up in a Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, after she was sent to an industrial school. Relationships in the family had collapsed after her father died, and her mother remarried.
- Louise Hogan