Tag Archives: McAleese Report

 Martin McAleese with his report into the Magdalene Laundries

The Irish Government has rejected the UN Committee Against Torture’s call last year for an investigation into allegations of ill treatment of women in Magdalene Laundries.

Specifically the committee said last year its repeated requests to investigate “allegations of ill-treatment of women at the Magdalene Laundries, prosecute perpetrators and ensure that victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation, have not been implemented”.

In response, the Department of Justice has said:

“…the Irish Government does not believe that a new enquiry is warranted. It is satisfied that the finding of the 1,000 page report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with Magdalen Laundries – the McAleese Report – brought into the public arena a considerable amount of information not previously known about Magdalen Laundries.

“The McAleese Committee had no remit to investigate or make determinations about allegations of torture or any other criminal offence.

“However, it did take the opportunity to record evidence and testimony that might throw light on allegations of systematic abuse.

“In this context, 118 women who had been in these institutions agreed to complete a questionnaire on conditions (food, punishment etc.) in these institutions and/or to meet with and discuss these issues with the independent Chair.

No factual evidence to support allegations of systematic torture or ill treatment of a criminal nature in these institutions was found. The majority of women did report verbal abuse but not of a nature that would constitute a criminal offence.

“There is no doubt that the working conditions were harsh and the work was physically demanding. A small number of women did describe instances of physical punishment during their time in the institutions.

However, the large majority of women said they had neither experienced nor seen other girls or women suffer physical abuse in the Magdalen Laundries.

“The majority of women who engaged with the Committee had been at Reformatory or Industrial Schools prior to their admission to a Magdalen Laundry. They stated clearly that the ill-treatment which they had witnessed and been subjected to in Industrial and Reformatory Schools was not a feature of the Magdalen Laundries.

“The Committee interviewed a number of medical doctors who had attended the women in the Magdalen laundries and who had in some cases reviewed earlier records. They did not recall any indication or evidence of physical maltreatment

No individuals claiming to be victims of criminal abuse in Magdalen laundries have made any complaints or requests to the Department of Justice and Equality seeking further inquiries or criminal investigations.

“While isolated incidents of criminal behaviour cannot be ruled out, in light of facts uncovered by the McAleese Committee and in the absence of any credible evidence of systematic torture or criminal abuse being committed in the Magdalen laundries, the Irish Government does not propose to set up a specific Magdalen inquiry or investigation.

“It is satisfied that the existing mechanisms for the investigation and, where appropriate, prosecution of criminal offences can address individual complaints of criminal behaviour if any such complaints are made.

“It is open to anyone who believes a criminal act took place to make a criminal complaint and it will be investigated. To date no individuals claiming to be victims of criminal abuse in Magdalen laundries have made any complaints or requests to the Department of Justice and Equality seeking further inquiries or criminal investigations.

“Further, a total of 337 women were met during the subsequent process led by Judge Quirke to make recommendations to the Government for a redress scheme. The report made by Judge Quirke specifically noted that the accounts provided by 337 women interviewed during that process were “entirely consistent” with the observations of then-Senator McAleese in the Report.”

The Department of Justice’s response to the UN can be read in full here

Plea for Magdalene inquiry is rejected (Ellen Coyne, The Times Ireland edition)

Previously: UNfinished Business

Standing By McAleese

The McAleese Report: A Conclusion

From top: Bessborough Mother and Baby Home and Dr Martin McAleese with his report into Magdalene laundries in 2013

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner.

Conall O Fatharta writes:

The Tuam babies scandal recalled a more callous Ireland we thought we had left far behind, but as late as 1990 children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were still being buried in unmarked graves…

When the Tuam babies scandal broke in 2014, it immediately became a story about Ireland’s past. Babies died and were left forgotten in a mass grave in a different Ireland, a crueler Ireland. An Ireland that we have long left behind. A memory.

However, an Irish Examiner investigation has discovered that children from the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home who died as late as 1990 are buried in unmarked graves in a Cork city cemetery.

Three grave plots in St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork city were found to contain the remains of at least 21 children. Two of the three plots are completely unmarked. The third records just one name despite 16 children being buried in the grave.

Read the story in full here

Readers may also wish to recall a special investigation by Mr Ó Fátharta published in June 2015.

During his investigation, Mr Ó Fátharta obtained material produced on foot of the HSE examining both the Tuam and Bessborough mother and baby homes in 2012, as part of the McAleese Inquiry into the Magdalene laundries.

As a result of these examinations, in Tuam, a HSE social worker made the HSE aware of concerns that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam mother and baby home.

In addition, the HSE West social worker for adoption found letters were sent from the Tuam home to parents asking for money for the upkeep of their children – even though some of those children had already been discharged or had died.

The social worker wrote “This may prove to be a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State, because of the very emotive sensitivities around adoption of babies, with or without the will of the mother” and she recommended that the information be brought to the attention of the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, of Fine Gael, and that a State inquiry be launched.

In addition, Mr Ó Fátharta reported:

A separate report on Bessborough, written in 2012, spoke of “staggering” numbers of children listed as having died at the institution. The author of the report says infant mortality at Bessborough between 1934 and 1953 is “a cause for serious consternation”. Curiously, no deaths were recorded after 1953 but 478 children died in this 19-year period — which works out as one child every fortnight for almost two decades.

Perhaps most shocking of all is the view of the report that death certificates may have been falsified so children could be “brokered into clandestine adoption arrangements, both foreign and domestic” — a possibility the HSE report said had “dire implications for the Church and State“.

Bessborough children were buried in unmarked graves as late as 1990 (Conall O Fatharta, Irish Examiner)

Further to this…

Last week…

On RTE Radio One’s Late Debate.

Two weeks after Ombudsman Peter Tyndall told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that less than half the €54million originally estimated for redress for the Magdalene survivors has been paid out and that 106 women have been refused payments because officials found they were not in one of 12 specific institutions…

Presenter Katie Hannon revisited the 2013 report by Dr Martin McAleese into the Magdalene laundries – five years after then Taoiseach Enda Kenny shed tears in the Dail on February 19, 2013 when he apologised to women who had been incarcerated in the institutions.

Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Senior Research and Policy Officer at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, was on the panel.

From their discussion, Ms O’Rourke said:

The McAleese committee that was set up in 2011 and reported in 2013 estimated that over 10,000 women went through the Magdalene laundries between 1922 and 1996 but that committee didn’t actually have access to the records from Galway or Dun Laoghaire so that is certainly an underestimate

“…We know from the women who have spoken before the State apology – but a lot more after the State apology –  including to the UCD oral history project that, by and large, their experiences were that they ended up in a Magdalene laundry without being told why they were there, that they were usually given a uniform, given a new name or a number to answer to, that they were subjected to a routine of silence and constant work.

Some slept in dormitories, some actually slept in cells. It wasn’t an option whether the women and girls worked – they did so from eight in the morning until six in the evening and they often spend their time after that engaging in handcrafts, lace-making, for example, making rosary beads…”

Asked by Ms Hannon how Ireland has got from Mr Kenny’s speech in the Dail in 2013 to Mr Tyndall’s comments last month, Ms O’Rourke said:

“Failures to implement the scheme that was promised in 2013 are down to the failure of the State to investigate the abuse that happened to the women.

“That [narrow terms of reference of the McAleese Report] was the key problem. The mandate of the McAleese committee was to investigate  the extent of State involvement with the institutions. It didn’t have a mandate to receive complaints of abuse or to investigate abuse.

“Now it found overwhelming evidence of State involvement in a number of areas and then it said, in the public interest, we decided to include a chapter on conditions in the laundries but we are, we want to say that we didn’t make findings in relation to the abuse because we didn’t have the mandate and we also had such a small sample size. They didn’t issue a public call for evidence for example.

“So what happened was, because they didn’t have a mandate to investigate allegations, there were no terms of reference about what they should be investigating. There’s actually no category or section in the chapter on conditions that looks at whether the women were locked in.

“There’s no section in that chapter that looks at whether the women were forced into unpaid labour.

There’s a section on physical abuse that says not much physical abuse was suffered but it doesn’t actually characterise forced labour as physical abuse.

“…The women have been done a grave disservice by the lack of investigation into abuse and I think that has followed through into the administration of the scheme.”

Asked about the State’s refusal to accept liability for what happened, Ms O’Rourke said:

The State has the power to do what it wants in this area and it has chosen to set up an ex-gratia [given as a gift] scheme which has allowed civil servants, for example, in the Department of Justice to state to the Oirechtas Committee on Justice and Equality that there is actually no legal liability in this area, that there hasn’t been a court finding and the reason there hasn’t been a court finding is, partly because, all of the women who applied for the scheme were forced to sign a waiver that they, making sure that they couldn’t sue the State.

“There is a very strict statute of limitations that, unlike in England, does not have an exception in the interest of justice so people cannot get to court.

“You cannot get the evidence of the way that these institutions operated. So the archive that the McAleese committee created is not accessible to the women or to the public.

When it came to the religious evidence, the McAleese committee destroyed its copies and sent the originals back. When it comes to the State archive that the McAleese collected, it’s being held in the Department of the Taoiseach for safe-keeping…

“I think the State has gotten into a pattern over the last 20 years of trying to provide forms of, what it calls, redress without actually providing the truth.”

Listen back to Late Debate in full here

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

Open The Files

Architecture Of Containment

Pic: Conall O’Fatharta

From top: UNCAT vice-chair Felice Gaer; Martin McAleese; Irish Examiner journalist Conall Ó Fátharta and Boston College professor James Smith

Readers may recall how the McAleese Inquiry into Magalene laundries – which was chaired by Martin McAleese – was published on Tuesday, February 5, 2013.

It found no evidence existed to suggest abuse took place in the laundries.

Readers may also recall how, in July, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva criticised the Government and said, in fact, UNCAT had received a “great deal of evidence that there has indeed been abuse”.

At that time, Rapporteur Felice Gaer said it was “quite troubling that the interdepartmental committee destroyed its copies of evidence from religious congregations that ran these laundries and will not provide public with information. What is preventing the Government providing public access to the archive?

Ms Gaer also said the committee had received information about the archives of the Diocese of Galway which was not accessible.

She said:

This individual also brought Senator McAleese’s office’s attention to the existence of these files. He provided the senator with a summary of the materials, but says they were not accurately reflected in the McAleese Report.

“The files reportedly document physical abuse, and the Galway Magdalene’s practice of calling the Irish police to prevent family members from removing women from the institutions.

Further to this.

Today.

In The Irish Examiner, Conall Ó Fátharta reports that the person who gave this information to UNCAT, in November 2013, was Professor James Smith, of Boston College.

He reports UNCAT was also informed that the documentation outlined how there were 107 women who were in the Galway Magdalene Laundry in December 1952.

It was also told of the involvement of the bishop of Galway in the operations and financial dealings of the Sisters of Mercy Galway Magdalene.

This was one of two laundries for which, according to the McAleese Report, no records survive.

Before he accessed the archive in May 2012, Professor Smith signed an agreement not to publish or reproduce any material, without the permission of the Galway Diocesan archive.

But after accessing it, he went on to compile a list of relevant files and prepared a 10-page summary of their contents for Dr McAleese, on May 10, 2012.

Mr Ó Fátharta reports that, according to minutes obtained by him, the McAleese committee did visit the archive and that it was deemed “useful”.

But, when the McAleese Report came out the following year, in February 2013, Prof Smith found that it did not adequately reflect the material he had seen and he subsequently sought to publish the material he had seen.

He was told to send his article to the Galway Diocesan Trustees for approval.

Mr Ó Fátharta reports:

“Prof Smith was also assisting an elderly Magdalene survivor in a personal capacity, as the Department of Justice’s Magdalene Implementation team was having difficulty determining her duration of stay at the Galway Magdalene Laundry, for the purpose of paying her lump-sum compensation. The woman had said she escaped the laundry in early December 1951, but there was no way to document this as fact.

On May 14, 2014, Prof Smith informed the department of the list of 107 women and said that while the list did not confirm her date of exit, it did confirm she was not resident in the Laundry in December 1952.

Prof Smith said he wanted to help the survivor, but that he had also signed an archival users agreement with the diocese of Galway not to “quote from, refer to, or reproduce’ material from the archive without permission”. The department responded by asking Prof Smith to ask the diocese for permission to share the document, but the academic informed it that it should apply directly to the diocese for a copy.

Two weeks later, on May 27, Prof Smith received a letter from the Galway diocesan archive advising him that he had “retained personal data” and that “it is now incumbent upon you, if the information is in fact true, to destroy, erase, or return such data to the data controller”. He was then informed that the archive was now “embargoed”.

“Also, please note that permission has not been given by the diocese, or its agents, to you to publish, or otherwise reproduce, the material.”

In addition, Mr Ó Fátharta reports:

The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Department of Justice on Prof’s Smith’s claims and the McAleese committee’s treatment of the Galway diocesan archive. It declined to answer any of them, stating that the committee “no longer exists and is, therefore, not in a position to respond to specific queries”.

Four years on, questions continue to be asked of report into Magdalene Laundries (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion 

This afternoon.

In Geneva.

At the UN Committee Against Torture.

An Irish official from the Department of Justice, sitting next to Minister of State for Justice and Equality David Stanton (left), spoke to the committee about the report into the Magdalene laundries by former Senator Martin McAleese published on February 5, 2013.

He said:

I have to say at the start the Taoiseach’s apology and the findings of the McAleese report still stand. There’s no question of walking back from either.

“On the question of criminal abuse, I’ll start by saying that the department approved payments for 677 women and, as part of that process, there’s a lot of interaction between the individual women and the department. And only in two cases was a reference arose to the question of possible criminal abuse…”

It was quite rightly stated that a question of criminal abuse was not a specific term of reference for the McAleese committee. The chairperson did decide to look into the matter. He interviewed [inaudible] to determine if they had seen any sign that would indicate any abuse within the institution or whether doctors had treated any suspicious injuries and he got no indication from them.

He also looked at the question of unlawful imprisonment. There was never any legal basis for detaining a woman in a Magdalene laundry if she was an adult. And at the time, the age of majority in Ireland was 21. So that’s, any woman who was 21 or older, there’s no legal basis for their detention in a Magdalene institution.

A number of women, when interviewed by the chairman of the committee, did say that they were unsure of whether they were always free to leave and a smaller number of women who felt that they were being detained against their will but those particular cohort of women all came through the industrial schools and there was a provision in the act that governs those industrial schools that provided that a child committed to an industrial school could be subject to controls up the age of 21. So that there would be a legal basis for them being restricted, their liberty.

We have no reason to believe at this stage, that there is a body of evidence out there which was not looked at by the McAleese committee. But if there is evidence of criminal abuse that’s newly available, we would be happy to receive it from any source.

The McAleese committee did look for all relevant diocesan records and did inspect material from the Galway diocese. In addition, the Department of Justice itself, and separate to the committee, did receive material from the Galway dioceses, because it lists a number of individuals and that facilitated the granting of payments to those individuals because it proved that they were in that institution.

There are questions of sensitive personal data regarding the archives of the McAleese committee. A person who was in a Magdalene institution is entitled to access to religious records relating to her so any individual who wants to access records relating to them may have access to them.

There is no statute of limitations in Ireland for criminal offences. We are not aware of any civil action that has been taken in the Irish courts relating to a Magdalene institution and has failed because of the statute of limitations being envoked.

Moving on to the actual scheme itself, Judge Quirke recommended that only two criteria be applied for the question of eligibility for payment, under the scheme. That was one, the person was admitted to the, one of the specialised institutions and the second was they worked those in those specific institutions.

In that context the Government decided that persons should not benefit from two schemes with one exception. And this was an exception that was specifically recommended by Judge Quirke, it was a report and that is in relation to girls who were transferred from industrial schools to Magdalene laundries under the relevant legislation and the exception applies where the period up to the age of 18, so in period up to the age of 18, they’re eligible for possibly compensation, or payments, from either the Residential Institutions Redress scheme or the Magdalene scheme. But for the period over 18, it’s limited just to the Magdalene scheme.

The question of medical assistance abroad was mentioned. The provision and statutory provision has been provided for the provision of medical assistance in Ireland. But, obviously, that can’t be applied to other countries because we don’t have the jurisdiction over their medical system so the arrangement is done on an ad-hoc basis, individual basis, depending on which country they’re in, arrangements made on that basis.

Now that the majority of women have been identified and have been in and have been paid, there is work necessary to progress other matters and that includes the question of a memorial…

Meanwhile…

Felice D. Gaer, a member of the UN Committee Against Torture, above, recalled the words of the late Sir Nigel Rodley who addressed Irish officials in 2014.

She said:

He referred to your legacy of abuse and I’m going to quote him here: he said it was ‘quite a collection’. Quite a collection and his view was, he said it is time the Irish state stopped it’s automatic response to every scandal, being to first deny, then delay, then lie, cover-up and, eventually are forced to throw some money at it and hope it will go away.

“Now, this is a surprisingly sharp omment from him and I only bring it up at the end now because first I wanted to honour his memory but recalling this, I also wanted to recall that when we reviwed Ireland the first time, in 2011, Mr Shatter [former Justice Minister Alan Shatter] came in and his response to the question of what was happening with the Magdalene laundries was to say that the, this was something that happened long ago, that the girls…and it was only by, that everybody had gone there with consent.

“And I’m glad to hear today that the position of the Government has changed on that position.”

Watch today’s proceedings live here

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

Omission To Prey

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.39.28

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Citywest Hotel Dublin at the weekend

“Easter 1916 was a cold and passionate dawn, for a new Ireland. In 100 years we have built on the new day the Rising leaders gave us. We founded a new state, we declared a Republic, we joined the European Union. At long last, we put our children first and respected the Magdelene women. We made marriage equal. It is that sense of generosity, compassion, strength, and imagination that will be the making of us as a people, a nation.”

Enda Kenny speaking at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the weekend.

In response, Claire McGettrick, co-founder of the Justice For Magdalene Research project tweeted:

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In addition, readers may wish to recall a post from 2014, based on a BBC report about then 83-year-old Mary Merritt who spent 14 years in the High Park magdalene laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin.

It was reported that Ms Merritt told former Senator Martin McAleese – author of the McAleese Report into the magdalene laundries – about how, one day, she broke a window and ran away from the laundry. She went to a priest and begged for help. The priest raped her before giving her sixpence. The gardaí then brought her back to the laundry. Ms Merritt became pregnant as a result of the rape. Her daughter, Carmel, was taken by the nuns and put up for adoption. Ms Merritt didn’t see her daughter again for another 40 years.

Ms Merritt’s testimony of her rape was not included in the McAleese Report.

September 2015: Justice for Magdalenes Research Submissions to UN Human Rights Committee and Committee on the Elimnation of Discrimination Against Women (JFM)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

‘Apologise To Me Before I Die’

Waiver Away

Pinkwashing

Read Enda Kenny’s speech in full here

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

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Former High Park Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin

The Ombudsman has dismissed appeals from former residents of An Grianán training centre at the High Park Magdalene Laundry in Dublin to be included in the Magdalene redress scheme.

Further to this, Conall Ó Fátharta, in this morning’s Irish Examiner, reports:

“The decision, granted on June 2, came on the same day the Irish Examiner revealed that evidence that An Grianán training centre and High Park Magdalene Laundry were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012.”

“Former residents of An Grianán, which was excluded from the McAleese inquiry, were denied access to the scheme as it was not considered a Magdalene laundry. It was on the same site as High Park Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin. It was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board Scheme.”

“…The Ombudsman has dismissed the appeals on the grounds that, although former residents of An Grianán worked in High Park Laundry, they were not directly admitted to it. The Magdalene redress scheme states women who “were admitted to and worked in one of the 12 institutions” could access it.”

Meanwhile, in a Justice for Magdalenes paper – entitled A Narrative of State Interaction with the Magdalene Laundries – Associate Professor James M. Smith, of Boston College wrote:

‘…the former ‘Boards of Health’ paid capitation grants to the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity for ‘Problem Girls’ sent to the An Grianán institution at High Park, Drumcondra.

‘An Grianan was a ‘Training Center’ for problem girls set up circa 1969 at the High Park Magdalene Laundry. Survivors of the Industrial School at High Park have informed JFM that An Grianán was housed in the same building as the Magdalene Laundry, and that the ‘problem girls’ slept in the Magdalene dormitory.’

Mother and Baby Homes: ‘Bizarre’ reasoning for refusal to uphold appeals (Irish Examiner)

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Centre and laundry ‘one and the same’ (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner, June 4, 2015)

A Narrative of State Interaction with the Magdalene Laundries (James Smith, Boston College, JFM)

Previously: The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion

Pic: Carissa Harwood

 

 

 

 

 

RTÉ showed Steve Humphries’ 1998 documentary Sex In A Cold Climate last night,

15 years after it was originally aired on Channel 4.

Prompting the above responses on Twitter.

Previously: Staying In Tonight?

The Magdalene Report: A conclusion

Full documentary here

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Two nuns who were involved in running Magdalene laundries have hit back at criticisms of the four congregations which operated the 10 such institutions in Ireland up to 1996.

In interviews to be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1’s The God Slot at 10 o’clock tonight “Sister B” said: “All of the shame of the era is being dumped on the religious orders.”

When asked whether an apology might be appropriate after the McAleese report on the laundries, “Sister A” responded, “apologise for what?”

Now, now, don’t dress it up in vague platitudes, sis.

Previously: Result!

Magdalene nuns hit back at critics and defend their role (Patsy McGarry, Irish Times)

(Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)