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UN Committee against Torture recommends inquiry into Magdalene Laundries

The Justice for Magdalenes group is calling for immediate action by the Government in the wake of the recommendations of the UNCAT report, which says that the State failed the girls and women of the Magdalene Laundries.

THE UN COMMITTEE against Torture (UNCAT) has found that an independent inquiry should be conducted into what went on in the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland.

The Justice for Magdalenes advocacy group is welcoming today’s recommendation, after providing information to a hearing in Geneva last month, during which the Department of Justice told the UN that, as far as it was aware, the vast majority of women entered the Laundries “voluntarily” or with parental consent.

The Committee has said that it is “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 reports says that “prompt, independent and thorough” investigations should be carried out and that perpetrators should be held accountable. It also says that former residents should obtain redress and have a right to compensation and rehabilitation.

The Justice for Magdalenes campaign is now seeking a formal apology and immediate action on the recommendations. Justice Minister Alan Shatter promised in the Dáil last month that he would bring the matter before the Government before the end of the first week in June and that he expected to be in a position to make certain announcements after his colleagues had considered the matter. A statement released by the Department of Justice today does not confirm that the minister will announce how the government plans to respond to the issue.

James Smith of Associate Professor at Boston College is a member of JFM’s advisory committee. He’s told TheJournal.ie that the group “hopes that Mr. Shatter will deliver on his self-appointed deadline of this week to announce the government’s response to the Magdalene Laundries”.

Smith says that the strong, unequivocal and unambiguous recommendation by UNCAT is being welcomed by JFM and has highlighted that the Committee has requested an update on the government response to the report with one year, not just on the issue of the Magdalene Laundries, but regarding budget cuts to human rights institutions like the Irish Human Rights Commission, the implementation of the recommendations of the Ryan Report and legislation which criminalises female genital mutilation.

Smith said:

Today is not about the Justice for Magdalenes group, it’s about the women who experiences this abuse. They are ageing and elderly and don’t have time on their sides.

JFM Co-ordinating Committee Director Mari Steed said that UNCAT’s request for a prompt response from the State reinforces JFM’s assertion that the time to act is now.

Smith concluded meanwhile that the need for an immediate apology is huge, that these women were “edited out” and that they were excluded from the 2002 Residential Institutions Redress Act.

Read more: UN Committee hears “vast majority” of women entered Magdalene Laundries voluntarily or with consent>

“We can’t rewrite history”: State defends response to clerical abuse reports>

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Emer McLysaght

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