Appointment to committee on torture


Sir, – The appointment of former secretary general of the Department of Justice, Seán Aylward to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (Home News, December 8th) could not be more inappropriate.

Mr Aylward displayed an extraordinary attitude towards women and girls who were incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries during his appearance before the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). At the examination in Geneva on May 24th, 2011, acting UNCAT chairperson Felice Gaer questioned Mr Aylward’s statement that “the vast majority of women who went to these institutions went there voluntarily, or if they were minors, with the consent of their parents or guardians”.

She said, “We had testimony about locked doors and people being captured by the police and returned to the institutions – so there’s State involvement as well.”

She added, “There were physical barriers and there seems to have been an intent to confine people” and she stated, “I think ‘voluntary’ means that one makes a choice; I think that ‘voluntary’ means that one is informed; I think that ‘voluntary’ means that one is then free to leave. I think it means that there is nothing coercive in this context.” She asked, “Can you identify any examples of efforts by State authorities to inspect or regulate these facilities? Were they exempt from standards? And can you tell us what means were taken to ensure that there were no acts or omissions that amount to torture”?

This appointment is a shocking validation of Mr Aylward’s attitude to some of the most vulnerable in our society and will come as a slap in the face to women who have suffered in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, who still await their validation in the form of a State apology. – Yours, etc,


Justice for Magdalenes,


Co Cavan.