Research into NI Magdalene laundries and homes

Academics will interview those with direct experience of institutions

The site of former Magdalene laundry in Donnybrook, Dublin 4. Photograph: Alan Betson

Approval has been given for research of mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland, the North's Department of Health has said .

The research will be undertaken over the coming year by academics based at Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. They will examine 13 homes and laundries operating between 1922 and 1999.

“As well as speaking to those with direct experience of the various institutions, the research team plans to examine government and institutional records to enable the researchers to build a narrative about the women and children who resided in the homes and those who worked in the laundries,” the department said in a statement.

The research was commissioned to fulfil a decision by the former Northern Executive to review the evidence around the experience of residents of certain institutions not considered by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.


That inquiry found evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and unacceptable practices across the 22 Catholic, Protestant and state-run homes and institutions that it investigated.

Before the collapse of Stormont a year ago, an inter-departmental working group was established chaired by Norah Gibbons, who has been involved in inquiries in this general field both in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

“I am delighted that the research has now been commissioned,” said Ms Gibbons. “It is essential that we develop a strong evidence base about the operation of these institutions in the last century.

“The research will not only look at historical records. Critically, it will also involve listening to and collating the accounts of women who resided in mother and baby homes or worked in Magdalene laundries,” she added.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland’s programme director of Amnesty, said the research was no substitute for human rights compliant investigation.

“Women from these homes have told Amnesty International that they suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies - criminal acts in both domestic and international law,” he said.

“Serious allegations of abuse must be met with investigations with the necessary hallmarks of independence, effectiveness and transparency,” he added.

“We would be concerned if this academic research is seen as part of an alternative to a real, human rights compliant investigation, rather than as preparatory work for such an inquiry,” said Mr Corrigan.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times