The report on State involvement in the Magdalene laundries cost just over €11,000, compared with €168 million spent on four statutory inquiries preceding it.
The Ferns inquiry cost €2.3 million, the Murphy and Cloyne reports €3.6 million and €1.9 million respectively in 2011. More than €160 million has been paid in legal fees relating to the Ryan report.
The interdepartmental committee was set up in July 2011 by the Government to establish State involvement in 10 Magdalene laundries.
Chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, it looked at records from four religious orders – the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of Mercy. All records were “opened fully and without restriction” to the committee.
It also looked at departmental archives and those of relevant non-governmental bodies, electoral records, plus newspaper archives and academic publications from 1922 until the closure of the last laundry in 1996.
The committee heard from 60 former residents of the laundries and 58 women in nursing homes under the care of the religious orders. It also heard from public and civil servants, including retired gardaí and factory inspectors.
Although mandated to establish the facts of State involvement only, it also uncovered material about non-State referrals; women’s background and profile; living and working conditions, and the financial viability of the laundries, which it published “for reasons of public interest”.
It has requested that the material archived as part of its work be deposited with the Department of an Taoiseach.
The committee included senior officials from six departments: Jimmy Martin (Justice); Barry Murphy (Health); Mary Moylan (Environment); Mary McGarry (Education); Francis Rochford (Enterprise); and Denis O’Sullivan (Children).
Nuala Ní Mhuircheartaigh, who came in for particular praise from Mr McAleese, was seconded from the Department of Foreign Affairs to act as adviser, analyst and drafter for the committee.
No member of the committee, which took 18 months to complete its work, received a salary or stipend. The only direct costs arose from travel expenses and room hire for meetings which came to €11,146.