Fresh call for statutory Magdalene inquiry

Women in Magdalene laundries denied basic human rights, Irish Human Rights Commission report finds

Des Hogan, acting chief executive of the Irish Human Rights Commission, said the mandate of the McAleese committee “was fact-finding only”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Des Hogan, acting chief executive of the Irish Human Rights Commission, said the mandate of the McAleese committee “was fact-finding only”. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tue, Jun 18, 2013, 19:43

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has repeated its 2010 call for a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene laundries on the lines of the Murphy commission which investigated the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese.

However, it has also insisted that whatever redress scheme may have been recommended to the Government by Mr Justice John Quirke should go ahead immediately. Mr Justice Quirke’s proposals are to be published “shortly”, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice.

Follow-up
In its Follow-up Report on State Involvement with Magdalen Laundries, published today, the commission said “the State failed in its obligations to protect the human rights of girls and women in the laundries”.

It called for “a comprehensive redress scheme that provides individual compensation, restitution and rehabilitation for the women in accordance with the State’s human rights obligations”.

The commission has compiled its latest report following a review of “the facts set out in the report of the interdepartmental committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese”, presented to the Government last February, and after it “revisited” its own findings in its 2010 Assessment Report “in light of information now available”.

It concluded that “girls and women placed in the Magdalene laundries did not have their human rights fully respected in relation to equality, liberty, respect for private lives, education, and to be free from forced or compulsory labour or servitude”.

Fact finding
Des Hogan, acting chief executive of the commission, said at the report’s launch yesterday that the mandate of the McAleese committee “was fact-finding only. It had no remit to consider the human rights law or indeed any legal implications of the placement of girls and women in the laundries by the State and other actors”.

He said the commission’s report took the facts established in the McAleese report and filtered them through the prism of the human rights obligations of the State. He pointed to “the duty of the State to vindicate the rights of its citizens under the Constitution and under international human rights law. Our report today focuses on this duty”.

‘Not investigative’
Sinéad Lucey, senior inquiry and legal officer with the commission, emphasised that the document produced yesterday was “not an investigative report. It is a human rights analysis drawn from all the information at our disposal, including the additional information which has come to light through the McAleese report.”

The McAleese report considered “only the actual acts of State engagement with the laundries”, while the commission reflected on “the wider issue of State responsibility.”

The full report is available at ihrc.ie