There are no reliable figures for the numbers of women sent to the Magdalene Laundry in Galway as the McAleese Report reveals blank or missing records, but strong hints it was one of the few in the State operating on an economic surplus.
This is the view of Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly, who was reacting to the publication on Tuesday of the McAleese Report into the running of the notorious Magdalene Laundries in the Republic of Ireland.
The report confirmed significant State involvement with the 10 laundries with more than 26 per cent of the 10,012 women and girls who spent time there being referred by the courts, the Garda, or the health authorities.
Cllr Connolly also pointed out that this figure excludes the two Magdalen Laundries operated by the Sisters of Mercy in Galway and Dun Laoghaire. There are no records for the Dun Laoghaire laundry, while for Galway only partial records survive - including one soft-back notebook which covers only 1944 to 1959 but with November 1949 to June 1954 left blank.
As a result Galway is dealt with separately on a number of occasions in the 1,000 page McAleese Report because of the lack of records.
The report does say the Galway laundry had a capacity for 110 residents, but it is not possible to determine the overall number of entries from 1922 until its closure in 1984 due to the incomplete records.
However, what figures there are reveal the route of entry for 120 residents, showing 32.5 per cent came from the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam; 16.7 per cent came from the Mater Dei/Legion of Mary in Limerick; 26 per cent from convents and clergy; and 10 per cent from family referral.
The report also uses other sources of information to try TO supplement the sparse records such as the National Census Figures for 1901 and 1911; the Galway Diocesan Financial Accounts; photos; and information recorded as ‘local memories’. From these sources the figure of 571 emerges but again this covers only eight years from 1922 to 1984.
The McAleese Report also looked at the financial viability of the laundries and pointed out how they were run on a break even or subsistence basis. However the surviving figures for Galway show it operated on a surplus for the majority of the 24 years for which accounts are available.
While eight of the other laundries show Government funding from one source or another, the Galway laundry fails to document or retain any documentation in relation to same.
In the Dáil on Tuesday, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny stopped short of giving an apology to the women who were placed in the laundries, something Cllr Connolly called “shameful”.
“The report needs further analysis and consideration,” she said, “but at this point a frank and humble apology from the Government is an absolute must as a first step in the healing process.”