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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 21 October, 2019

Government agrees to establish a Magdalene Laundries committee

The government pledges to “establish the true facts and circumstances” relating to the laundries – but no apology for now.

Still from the 2002 film Sisters of Magdalene
Still from the 2002 film Sisters of Magdalene

THE GOVERNMENT HAS agreed to establish a committee to clarify any State interaction with the Magdalene Laundries.

Details of an inter-departmental committee, which will be chaired by an independent person, were confirmed last night. A report on the committee’s findings will be presented to cabinet in the coming months.

The government said it was essential “to fully establish the true facts and circumstances relating to the Magdalene Laundries as a first step”. It has welcomed the news that the four congregations of nuns who ran the facilities have said they are willing to participate in any inquiry.

Justice minister Alan Shatter and his department’s junior minister Kathleen Lynch will meet with the former residents and campaign groups groups and the religious orders concerned.

The meetings will discuss making residential records of the laundries available to former residents. The release of information about people who are still in the care of the Magdalene Laundries will also be discussed.

Shatter and Lynch will also discuss “the putting in place of a restorative and reconciliation process” with the relevant groups.

The Justice for Magdalenes campaign group welcomed the news, describing it as a “further positive step to bringing restorative justice and reparations” for laundry survivors.

However the group also said that it regrets that the government is not prepared to meet the first and foremost request for a formal apology. Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries have stressed the importance of such an importance as a crucial step in restoring their dignity.

Opposition political parties have welcomed the establishment of the committee, but also criticised the lack of a formal State apology for victims.

Last week the UN Committee Against Torture recommended an inquiry into the Magdalene Laundries, prompting campaign groups to demand a formal apology and immediate action on the recommendations. Earlier this week, Dublin City Council voted to support a formal State apology for Magdalene Laundry survivors.

Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly

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Emer McLysaght

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