Magdalene report due next week


The long-awaited report into the Magdalene laundries will be published next week.

It is expected the report will be published next Tuesday afternoon, February 5th after being presented to the Cabinet that morning.

The report has been prepared by a committee of officials from five Government departments and chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, assisted by another official from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The laundries, where an estimated 30,000 single mothers and other women were detained between 1922 and 1996, were operated by four religious congregations. Most of the women are deceased. The last such laundry, at Sean McDermott Street in Dublin, closed in 1996.

On June 14th, 2011, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced the Government was to set up the committee to investigate the State’s role in relation to the laundries. The previous week, the four religious congregations concerned had agreed to co-operate with any such inquiry.

The Minister’s announcement followed a lengthy campaign by the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group and a report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNcat), published in June 2011. It urged the Government to set up a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene laundries, to bring prosecutions where necessary and provide compensation to surviving women. It said it was gravely concerned by the failure of the State to “protect girls and women who were involuntarily confined between 1922 and 1996 in the Magdalene Laundries”.

The UNcat report followed a presentation by human rights lawyer Maeve O'Rourke of JFM at its headquarters in Geneva on May 20th 2011. In November 2010 the Irish Human Rights Commision called on the Government to establish a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene women’s treatment, echoing similar demands from the Magdalene Survivors Together group.

The 10 laundries were operated by the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity, and the Good Shepherd Sisters.

Those operated by the Sisters of Mercy were at Galway and Dún Laoghaire; by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity at Drumcondra and Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin. The Sisters of Charity operated laundries at Donnybrook, Dublin, and Cork, and the Good Shepherd Sisters ran laundries at Limerick, Cork, Waterford, and New Ross.

An interim report published by the McAleese committee on October 25th 2011 said in no case would “sensitive personal data be published or made available to the public without the consent of the data subject”, living or dead. It said “the names or personal data of former residents of the Magdalene laundries will not be published or otherwise released to the general public.” An archive of the committee’s work will not include “personal and sensitive personal data”, all of which will be “destroyed
and/or returned to the relevant religious order upon conclusion of the committee’s work and publication of its report”.

It noted the committee’s role was "fact-finding" and "any information provided will be used for the purpose of the committee’s investigations into the facts of State involvement only".

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