Ireland: UNCAT recommends prompt justice for women tortured in the Magdalene Laundries Print E-mail

 Dublin ~ Tuesday June 07 2011

Demand for probe on Magdalene Laundries

By Colm Kelpie and Fiach Kelly

THE Government was under mounting pressure last night to set up a statutory investigation into allegations of torture against women in Magdalene Laundries.

A support group for survivors has also demanded a state apology after an international torture watchdog recommended a statutory inquiry.

The Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group said the State must follow through on the UN Committee against Torture's recommendations -- published yesterday -- that perpetrators be prosecuted and victims of the Catholic Church reformatory workhouses be given a right to compensation.

Human rights expert Maeve O'Rourke, who wrote JFM's submission to the committee, said she was hopeful the Government will honour its obligations to those who have suffered.

"Having suffered torture or ill-treatment, in which the State directly participated and which it knowingly failed to prevent, the women have the ongoing right to an investigation, an apology, redress and treatment with dignity," she said.

The Magdalene Laundries were operated by four Catholic religious orders: The Sisters of Mercy; The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; The Sisters of Charity; and The Good Shepherd Sisters.

They were institutions for women who had a child out of wedlock. The last laundry, at Sean McDermott Street in Dublin, closed in 1996.

 Dublin ~ Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shatter to act soon on Magdalene report


MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Alan Shatter will bring recommendations to Government “inside a very short time” in response to the report of the United Nations Committee Against Torture report on the women in the Magdalene laundries, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

He was responding to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who asked “when will these women get the recognition, the apology and the compensation they deserve”.

The UN report called for a statutory inquiry, a “prompt, independent and thorough investigation” into allegations of abuse against the women.

Up to 30,000 women were confined in these laundries between 1922 and 1996 and Ms McDonald said “they were held as prisoners and forced to work without pay. They were abused and many of them had their children taken from them. Some became so institutionalised that they could never leave or function outside of the institution. The State was complicit in all of this, chose to look the other way and failed these women.” Ms McDonald said the State “excluded these women from previous redress mechanisms”.

Mr Kenny said the Minister “is entitled to consider the detail of the Uncat report and to continue the work he is already doing in conjunction with the office of the Attorney General on this matter”.

He stressed that “it is clear that some of the women in the Magdalene laundries were sent there on remand arising from court decisions. Some were sent there for other reasons and some who left the laundries returned voluntarily. It is not true to say these were State-run institutions” in the sense Ms McDonald meant, he said.

Mr Kenny said that “taking into account the difficulties experienced by the women for a variety of circumstances, we at least owe it to them, after more than 100 years, to look at the implications of this report, at the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission and at the work being done by the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Attorney General,” he said.
 Ireland ~ Monday June 6 2011

UN Committee against Torture recommends inquiry into 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 The 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: "oday 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.
 Ireland ~ Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Poll: Should a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene Laundries be established?

(@jbtaylor on Flickr)

THE GOVERNMENT is due to issue its response next week to calls by the United Nations for a “prompt, independent and thorough” investigation into what happened to the 30,000 women held in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries until 1996.

The report also recommended that former residents should be offered redress and have a right to compensation and rehabilitation – and that the perpetrators should be held accountable.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter will bring his recommendations to the government on what should be done “inside a very short time”, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday.

Speaking on last night’s Prime Time, a spokesperson for Justice for Magdalenes group said a full apology, and the establishment of a trust fund and pension entitlements was what the Magdalene survivors wanted most. But do we have a responsibility to find out what really happened through a full inquiry and criminal prosecutions, even if that means a further delay in compensation and greater expense? What do you think should be done now?

Poll Results:

Read the Justice for Magdalenes Group’s submission to the UN Committee Against Torture HERE