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Justice Department got no specific legal advice on Magdalene report response

The government has come under fire for failing to provide a full apology on behalf of the State for its role in the Magdalene Laundries.

Senator Martin McAleese at the launch of his report yesterday.
Senator Martin McAleese at the launch of his report yesterday.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE DEPARTMENT OF Justice neither sought nor received any specific legal advice from the Attorney General’s office prior to responding to the report on the State’s involvement in the Magdalene Laundries.

The government’s decision to not issue a full apology following the publication of a report which found the State responsible for admitting over a quarter of the women to the institutions between 1922 and 1996 has drawn widespread criticism.

It has also led to claims that the government was advised to avoid offering a full apology on behalf of the State for its role in the women being incarcerated in the laundries as it would amount to admitting full liability and open it up to claims from survivors.

Responding to a query from today, the Department said that the Attorney General received a copy of the report at the same time it went to the government at a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning.

But a statement said: “No specific advice from that office has been sought or received by this Department.

“As a general matter, when legal advice is provided it is not the practice to disclose the contents of such advice,” the statement added.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin told RTÉ Radio this morning that the Attorney General attends Cabinet as is customary and “advises the discussion”.

But he pointed out that the Constitution prohibits him from discussing matters that are raised at Cabinet such as the report which was delivered to it by Senator Martin McAleese yesterday.

Howlin added that the government wants to make a “compassionate response” to the report and do so in a “considered, appropriate way”.

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Hugh O'Connell

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