Dublin, Ireland (CBS) -- A group representing survivors of Catholic run workhouses in Ireland rejected a government apology on Tuesday (February 5) for the incarceration of thousands of women in the Magdalene Laundries.
Many of the women and girls subjected to harsh discipline and unpaid work in the now-notorious Magdalene Laundries were sent there by the Irish state, an official report said.
The laundries, run by Catholic nuns, have been accused of treating inmates like "slaves" for decades of the 20th century, imposing a regime of fear and prayer on girls sometimes put in their care for simply falling pregnant outside wedlock.
Irish governments had in the past denied blame, emphasizing the laundries were private institutions, but the 1,000-page report concludes there was "significant state involvement", with one in four inmates sent there via various arms of the state.
Justice for Magdalenes, a group comprised of former inmates, family members of those who died and human rights activists, said Kenny's statement fell far short of a sincere apology.
"Justice for Magdalenes campaign broadly welcomes Senator Martin McAleese's report in that he has shown in great detail the extent of the state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries institution. And it was fundamental and integral to the Magdalene Laundries institution," said Katherine O'Donnell, director of women's center at University College Dublin.
The group called for a government apology on behalf of the state. "The government must apologize. It's incumbent on them to come up with an open, transparent and speedy reparation scheme for the women," O'Donnell said, criticizing the report for not addressing allegations of physical abuse.
"He says no physical abuse occurred in the laundries. Well, that goes absolutely contrary to the testimony provided to him by the women," O'Donnell said.
The laundries, depicted in the award-winning film "The Magdalene Sisters", put 10,000 women and girls through an uncompromising regime from the foundation of the Irish state in 1922 until 1996.
The report's findings follow investigations into clerical sex abuse and state-abetted cover-ups that have shattered the authority of the church in Ireland.
Years of crisis over sexual abuse of children have prompted several Irish bishops to resign.
Unlike other harrowing reports where priests were found to have beaten and raped children in Catholic-run institutions, no allegations of sexual or physical abuse were made against the nuns at the laundries, the report said.
However former inmates, one in 10 of whom died in care, the youngest at 15, described the atmosphere in the laundries as cold, with an uncompromising regime of physically demanding work and prayer enforced by scoldings and humiliations.
Many women still find it difficult to tell their stories, the report said. The committee, chaired by Martin McAleese, husband of former Irish President Mary McAleese, was only able to survey 100 "survivors".