UNfinished Business


From top: a Magdalene Laundry, 1950s; UN Committee Against Torture

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has urged  the Government to investigate allegations of ill treatment of women in Magdalene Laundries.

The committee, in a report report published today, said its repeated requests to investigate “allegations of ill-treatment of women at the Magdalen Laundries, prosecute perpetrators and ensure that victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation, have not been implemented”.

The report states:

Magdalene Laundries:

Undertake a thorough, impartial investigation into allegations of ill- treatment of women at the Magdalen Laundries that has the power to compel the production of all relevant facts and evidence, and if appropriate, ensure the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.

Strengthen the State party’s efforts to ensure all victims of ill-treatment who worked in the Magdalen Laundries obtain redress and to this end ensure that all victims have the right to bring civil actions even if they participated in the redress scheme and ensure that such claims concerning historical abuses can continue to be brought “in the interests of justice.

Take further efforts to publicize the existence of the ex gratia scheme to survivors of the Magdalene Laundries living outside Ireland; fully implement the outstanding recommendations on redress made by Justice Quirke.

Promote greater access of victims and their representatives to relevant information concerning the Magdalene Laundries held in private and public archives; and provide information on these additional measures in the State party’s next report to the Committee.

The Committe also criticised inaction in other areas of human rights in Ireland:

Mother and Baby Homes

‘The State party should ensure that it carries out an independent, thorough, and effective investigation into any allegations of ill-treatment, including cases of forced adoption, amounting to violations of the Convention at all of the Mother and Baby Homes and analogous institutions.

That perpetrators of any such acts are prosecuted and punished and that all victims of violations of the Convention obtain redress.

The State party should ensure that information concerning abuses in these institutions should be made accessible to the public to the greatest extent possible.


The State party should initiate an impartial, thorough investigation into the cases of women who have been subjected to symphysiotomy, ensure that criminal proceedings are initiated with respect to any perpetrators of violations of the Convention.

Ensure that survivors of symphysiotomy obtain redress, including compensation and rehabilitation, determined on an individual basis.

Domestic violence:

Amend the Domestic Violence Bill to include a specific criminal offence of domestic violence that encompasses physical and psychological abuse committed within a relationship and to exempt women seeking protection from domestic violence from the minimum required contribution for legal aid if they cannot afford it.

Ensure that all allegations of violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, are registered by the police and promptly, impartially and effectively investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the crime;

Ensure that State funding for domestic and gender-based violence services is sufficient to ensure that all victims of these offenses, including migrants and the indigent, have access to medical and legal services, counselling, safe emergency accommodation and shelters;


Ensure the provision of post-abortion health care for women irrespective of whether they have undergone an illegal or legal abortion.

Direct Provision:

Enshrine in its legislation the principle that detention of asylum-seekers should be used as a measure of last resort, for as short a period as possible and in facilities appropriate for their status;

Abuse of older persons and disabled:

The Committee is concerned at reports that older persons and other vulnerable adults are being held in public and privately operated residential care settings in situations of de facto detention, and at reports of cases in which such persons were subjected to conditions that may amount to inhuman or degrading treatment, including the improper use of chemical restraints.

The Committee regrets that although the State party has enacted new legislation that will substantially alter its procedures regarding involuntary confinement in such facilities – the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 – the substantive provisions of this law have not been commenced, and as a result the Lunacy Regulations (Ireland) Act 1871 continue to be in effect.

The Committee is further concerned at reports that the authorities currently entrusted with monitoring residential care facilities are not sufficiently independent nor adequately resourced to perform this function effectively, and at reports that the Ombudsman cannot receive complaints about clinical judgments in privately operated nursing homes.


Sstrengthen the measures aimed at decreasing further the number of persons in the prison system and to reduce overcrowding with a view to bringing conditions of detention in line with international standards enshrined in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules);

Read full report here

Govt criticised by UN over lack of Magdalene investigation (RTÉ)

Previously: Magdalene Laundries on Broadsheet

28 thoughts on “UNfinished Business

    1. kellma

      yeah, that stuck out to me too. Do the lads have to pay for the legal aid then? I would like to think this is an oversight because it usually is women that suffer but there are men that suffer abuse and have had to apply for safety and barring orders etc…

    2. Yep

      Just leave tonight, Cian. Pack your stuff and get out before she comes home from the pub. Be. Brave.

      1. petey

        no need for stupid snark like tbat. i divorced my wife for her physical and emotional violence. it happens a million times a day, everywhere.

        and just to make sure that the righteous police are satisfied, i had an aunt who was disappeared into the magdalene system and i applaud the UN’s statement.

        1. Yep

          Well you did the right thing and I’m genuinely sorry you were in that situation and happy you were able to get away from it. I half expected someone to take offence to it but all I can say is that it’s a joke on the internet. Nothing personal was intended.

          On the “righteous police” aspect, you don’t need to have known someone involved in the laundries to be disgusted by it or to support the statement. Have a good weekend petey

    3. Gah!

      I think it says women because that’s what is usually assumed when one hears the term “domestic violence” but we all know that while the victims are predominantly women, they are not exclusively so. The article does seem to clarify that by referring to ” domestic and gender-based” violence. I took that to mean all domestic violence. Any law would have to cover every aspect.

      1. Gah!

        It also must be borne in mind that, looking at the abuses listed, the victims are overwhelmingly women and domestic abuse is just the tip of the iceberg. The State has let women down since its inception. So let’s concentrate on getting all victims of all State abuses the justice they deserve.

        1. mildred st. meadowlark

          Some great comments there Gah!

          It shouldn’t be an us v. them mentality, especially when it comes to domestic violence. It’s unacceptable and disgusting behaviour, regardless of your gender.

        2. Nigel

          Good comments, but I do suspect that when/if stigma about being a male victim of domestic violence erodes a bit more, their number will end up being higher than we’d like to hope.

  1. bisted

    …roll that report up and stick it in a can and see which of the ‘Independent’ Ministers can kick it furthest down the road…my money would be on Zapper…

        1. realPolithicks

          Bodger, your well known disdain for female politicians is on display again. Do you think that any of her male colleagues have ever said one thing then acted in a different way later?

          1. Bodger

            realPolithicks, Catherine Murphy, Clare Daly and Catherine Connolly are my favourite Irish politicians.

  2. Daisy Chainsaw

    There’ll either be nothing done or another McAleese whitewash. And as usual, the victims will be ignored.

  3. frank

    The magdalenes was a government sponsored, controlled and rubber-stamped evil. The catholic church provided all that the government demanded because they were fully complicit partners in that evil.
    It is in the very top levels in Dáil Eireann that responsibility lies; as it does today in the system set up by Justice to handle emigrants which was put in place after they gave Justice to McDowell.
    Absolute power etc . . .

  4. Shayna

    Jesus (sorry about that) – it takes the UN to sort out a domestic. If the Gardaí and the Irish Judiciary system had any integrity, UN intervention wouldn’t be necessary. It’s clear who is at fault, but no-one is pointing a finger.. I’ll go ahead and say it, The Catholic Church in Ireland.

  5. Ben Redmond

    More tribunals and reports = more income for members of the legal profession + zilch satisfaction for former inmates of the laundries.

  6. Cian

    You missed out the good stuff:

    The Committee also welcomes the following measures [implemented since the] previous report:
    (a) The adoption of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) Act [2014] and the merger of the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority to create the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission [2014];
    (b) The adoption of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act, … + other Prison acts;
    (c) The adoption of the Children (Amendment) Act 2015; and the closing of St. Patrick’s Institution for the detention of juveniles;
    (d) Various prison reforms;
    (e) Various redresses/apologies/reports/funds for Institutional Abuse
    (f) The rolling out of Garda Victim Service Offices to 28 Garda divisions [2015]; and National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021;
    (g) The establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly to consider a number of issues, including abortion laws, in 2016;
    (h) The adoption of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act, [2012]; and the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act, [2012];
    (i) The adoption of the Child and Family Act [2013]; the establishment of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) [2014]; Children First Act [2015];
    (j) The adoption of the International Protection Act 2015, replacing the Refugee Act 1996; and the introduction of Immigration Guidelines for Victims of Domestic Violence by the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service, in 2012;
    (k) The adoption of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (Garda); and the Garda Síochána Amendment Act 2015 (GSOC);
    (l) The adoption of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, in 2015.

  7. nellyb

    if they meant any of it, there would have been sanctions. it’ll just go to the Dail jacks, to distract from difficult peristalsis.

  8. H

    This photo doesn’t align with my mental image of Magdalene laundries, almost everyone in that photo is smiling.

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