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Magdalene Laundries report finds direct State involvement

Senator McAleese said he hopes his report brings healing and peace of mind to survivors.

Image: Virgin Mary depiction via Shutterstock

A REPORT COMPILED following an 18-month investigation has found the Irish State was directly and fundamentally involved in the Magdalene Laundry system.

Senator Martin McAleese’s report, published this afternoon, reveals that more than 2,500 women who were incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries were sent in directly by the State. In reality, that number is higher but many records did not survive.

McAleese said he hopes the findings bring “healing and peace of mind to all concerned, most especially the women whose lived experience of the Magdalene Laundries had a profound and enduring negative effect on their lives”.

Advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes welcomed the report, stating it ensures that the State can no longer claim the institutions were private, as has happened in the past, or that the majority of Magdalenes entered voluntarily.

According to the report, the State gave lucrative contracts to the 10 Magdalene Laundries, located across the country. It did so without complying with Fair Wage Clauses and in the absence of any compliance with Social Insurance obligations.

Evidence shown to the Inter-departmental Committee set up in the wake of an United Nations Committee Against Torture recommendation, revealed that the State inspected the Laundries under the Factories Acts and in doing so oversaw and furthered a system of forced and unpaid labour.

Survivors have long claimed that the forces of An Garda Síochána were used to keep women and girls incarcerated and working with no pay or education.

The report investigated these claims. There was a statutory basis for the deployment of the Gardaí in some cases but the Report notes, “The large majority of women who engaged with the Committee spoke of the deep hurt they felt due to their loss of freedom, they were not informed why they were there, they had no information on when they could leave and were denied contact with the outside world, including their family and friends.”  The report also notes that the Gardaí “brought women to the Magdalen Laundries on a more ad hoc or informal basis.”

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Justice for Magdalenes noted that the statistics compiled in today’s publication omit the records of the Mercy-run Galway and Dun Laoghaire Magdalene Laundries because of incomplete information from the two institutions. It believes the figure of just over 10,000 girls and women confined in this system is, therefore, in need of significant upward revision.

The report also fails to provide information on how 1,987 of the total number were referred to the institutions. According to the report, half of the girls and women incarcerated were under the age of 23. More than 4,000 of them spent more than a year in the system and 15 per cent spent more than five years.

There are some aspects that require “substantial clarification”, according to JFM. It is currently in dialogue with McAleese and his team.

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