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Magdalene survivors criticise ‘unacceptable’ delay for apology and redress

It is almost a year since a United Nations Committee Against Torture recommended an independent inquiry and redress for former residents of the infamous Magdalene Laundries.

Image: @jbtaylor via Flickr

SURVIVORS OF THE Magdalene Laundries have criticised the government for failing to implement the recommendations of a United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) almost a year ago.

The Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group, an advocacy group for survivors of the Catholic-run institutions which operated in Ireland between 1922 and 1996, have said in a submission to UNCAT that it is unacceptable that there has not yet been any apology, redress and reparations for survivors.

The Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, set up an inter-departmental committee, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, last year in order to establish the facts of State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries.

The committee’s establishment came on foot of UNCAT’s recommendation that an inquiry be held after stating that it was  ”gravely concerned at the failure of the State to protect girls and women who were involuntarily confined between 1922 and 1996 in the Magdalene Laundries”.

The inter-departmental committee’s final report is expected to be published by mid-2012 and the government has said it will then consider it.

But, Maeve O’Rourke, from the JFM Advisory Committee member, said that the State had failed to implement the recommendations of the United Nations committee and that the McAleese committee’s work should not stop women accessing an apology and redress.

“Our report states clearly that the government has failed to implement the UNCAT recommendation, which called on the state to ensure that Magdalene survivors obtain redress and to establish an independent investigation into the full extent of the abuse,” she said.

“We acknowledge the important work of Senator McAleese’s Committee, however, it should not impede the women’s access to an apology and redress, and we also reserve the right to call for a fully independent inquiry with statutory powers to compel evidence.”

Another member of JFM’s advisory committee, James M Smith, from Boston College, said there was “ample evidence of State involvement” in the laundries which would warrant “an apology, pensions and restoring lost wages to this group of aging and elderly women.

“They need help now while still alive to benefit from it,” he said.

Newly gathered survivor testimony is to be submitted to the McAleese. Claire McGettrick, from Justice for Magdalenes, outlined what some of this evidence detailed.

In the testimonies already gathered, all survivors told us that they could not leave the laundries, that the doors were locked and the windows inaccessible.  If they did try to leave they were returned by the Gardaí, while others decided not to try to escape because they knew the same fate awaited them.

“They all told us they could not complain, in most cases they remarked that there was nobody to complain to; while others begged to leave, often on a daily basis, but all were refused. Every single survivor confirmed that they were never paid, that no inspections were ever carried out and that no government official ever came to check on them.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said: “The interim progress report of the Inter-Departmental Committee was published on the 25 October 2011 and is available on the Department of Justice and Equality website.

“The final report of this Committee is expected to be presented in mid 2012 and will be made public. The Government will decide what further action is appropriate when it has received and considered that report.”

Separately, another survivors group, the Magdalene Survivors Together, are to meet with Senator McAleese tomorrow at Leinster House.

Read: Group calls for State apology to Magdalene laundry survivors

Read: Calls for unofficial State involvement in Magdalene Laundries to be accounted for

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