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
Previously: UNfinished Business