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Calls for governmment reparation for Magdalene Laundries survivors

The issue of reparation for survivors of the Magdalene Laundries was brought to the UN Human Rights Council by the Irish Human Rights Commission and Women’s Human Rights Alliance at a special meeting today.

Image: Harshil Shah via Flickr

THE GOVERNMENT WAS called on today to address the subject of reparation for survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

Ireland’s human rights record is being examined at the United Nations in Geneva today as the country bids to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) made a statement to the UN Human Rights Council calling on the government to address the issue of reparation.

The IHRC was joined by the Women’s Human Rights Alliance (WHRA), led by the National Women’s Council of Ireland, when they made a statement to the UNHRC.

The WHRA urged the government to comply with the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture and the IHRC to institute a statutory inquiry into Magdalene Laundries abuse and a compensation scheme for survivors.

Ireland received 127 recommendations from other UN member states on how to improve its human rights record last October. Justice Minister Alan Shatter accepted sixty-two of the recommendations on the spot and another 46 are due to be accepted by the government today.

Maeve O’Rourke, of the survivor advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) advisory committee, said that when the recommendations were made, JFM submitted evidence of the State’s involvement in the Magdalene Laundries abuse to the Human Rights Council. This included firsthand testimony from survivors.

Today, the government communicated its acceptance of a recommendation from Thailand to institute a statutory inquiry and compensation scheme for women and children abuse victims by explaining that an apology has already been made to victims of childhood abuse and compensation awarded by the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

Speaking to the Human Rights Council,  Jacqueline Healy of WHRA said:

We are gravely concerned that in accepting the Thai recommendation for a statutory inquiry and compensation scheme for women and children victims of abuse, there is no mention of the women survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries who have been denied reparation.

Claire McGettrick of JFM noted that Thailand’s recommendation specifically referred to ‘women’ victims.

She said:

The government’s response has elided the suffering of the women who spent time in Magdalene Laundries, who have so far been denied any apology or reparation. Magdalene Laundry survivors need to know that the government is serious about putting this injustice right and the government’s statement to the UN Human Rights Council today did nothing to achieve that.

The Irish Human Rights Commission has said that Ireland’s progress on implementing the recommendations should underscore the application for membership of the Human Rights Council. This will take place next year.

Read: Ireland’s human rights record under spotlight at the UN>

Read: Iran “concerned over human rights violations in Ireland”>

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