Bad Habits Die Hard


McAleese McAleeseExec

Former Senator Martin McAleese, top, in his report on the State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries, concluded that the four orders involved in the laundries he investigated – the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters – were not profitable, as seen in the report’s executive summary above.

Following this report, Mr Justice John Quirke called for a redress scheme to be organised for the survivors.

However, this morning, the Irish Times reports the aforementioned religious orders are refusing to pay, or even contribute, to what’s expected to amount to a €58million scheme.

It is understood the McAleese Report’s conclusion that they were unprofitable strengthens their case in this regard.


In a critique of the McAleese Report, law lecturer Máiréad Enright, wrote:

“Much has been made of the Report’s findings that the laundries, despite large incomes and an unpaid workforce, did not turn significant profits. But, even though the Committee was given full access to Orders’ financial records, this part of the Report consists in very broad statements of accounts (often summaries of income and expenditure over long periods of time) coupled with extracts from statements of  firms of accountants who worked for the Laundries. Where the running costs that eat up the profits of the Laundries are mentioned, they are not detailed. Details of per person amounts spent on maintaining the residents (clothing, food etc) are not provided. No real details are provided of the purposes – e.g. capital expenditure – to which the, perhaps small, profits generated by the Laundries were put. Senator John Crown has noted that the Committee did not conduct any detailed forensic analysis of the financial statements included in the Reports. We need to watch carefully for moments in which the Laundries might be re-spun as charitable enterprises rather than as places of industry and employment.”


In addition Conor Ryan, investigative correspondent with the Irish Examiner, reported two years ago:

“Land surrounding a former mass grave at the largest Magdalene Laundry was quietly sold by the order of nuns who ran it for €61.8 million during the boom.

“The revelation emerged as representatives of the women imprisoned in the laundries met with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

“They discussed the new inquiry and their case for an apology, compensation and a pension for the women involved.

“The Justice For Magdalenes group (JFM) said the €296m made in property deals during the boom by the four orders who ran the laundries must form part of the conversation on redress. “


Given that the redress scheme largely involves payments based on the length of time a survivor spent at a laundry, it is troubling that Ms Enright has also noted that while the McAleese Report suggests 61% of women admitted to the laundries were there for less than a year, the Magdalene women who gave evidence to Justice Quirke’s team gave testimony indicating that this figure is closer to 9%.

How can the State  recompense women based on a potentially flawed report?

What’s Wrong with the Magdalenes Redress Scheme? (Mairéad Enright, Human Rights In Ireland)

Critiquing the McAleese Report (Mairéad Enright, Human Rights In Ireland)

Previously: A Limerick A Day

The McAleese Report: “Incomplete And Not Independent”

Omission To Prey

Lost In The Wash

The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion