Calls for Magdalene investigation

Mon, Jun 6, 2011, 01:00

The Government should set up a statutory investigation into allegations of torture and degrading treatment against women committed to Magdalene Laundries.

It should also punish the perpetrators and provide redress to the women who suffered, the United Nations Committee Against Torture has recommended.

In a report detailing its "concluding observations" on Ireland's record of protecting the rights of those in detention, the committee has also strongly criticised the State's "inadequate" response to alleged reports that it cooperated with rendition flights.

The report, which was published this morning following two days of hearings before the committee in Geneva last month, also criticises the conditions in Irish prisons, the treatment of asylum seekers and the State's failure to prosecute anyone from evidence gathered in the Ryan report into abuse of children in residential institutions.

In a series of recommendations regarding the alleged committal of women to Magdalene Laundries, the committee says it is "gravely concerned" at the failure by the State party to protect the girls and women. It criticises the State for failing to regulate or inspect the laundries, where it is alleged physical, emotional abuses and other ill-treatment were committed. These may have amounted to violations of the UN convention against torture, according the report.

"The Committee also expresses grave concern at the failure by the State party to institute prompt, independent and thorough investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment perpetrated on girls and women in the Magdalene Laundries," it says

The committee recommends the State institute "prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

It says in appropriate cases, it should prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences committed. It should also ensure that all victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation, says the report.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is expected to announce later this week how the Government plans to respond to the Magdalene Laundry issue.

At the committee hearing in Geneva last month Department of Justice secretary general Seán Aylward said the State couldn't "rewrite its history" with regard to the Magdalene laundries.

"Some of the issues that are raised and looked at in the Ryan report and that have been raised in relation to the Magdalene laundries relate to a very distant, far-off time," said Mr Aylward in his initial response to the committee's questions and observations.

"Many of the people who suffered in that period or were victims of it are no longer with us and it would be very difficult for the State to rewrite its history or right the wrongs that were done," he said.