Tag Archives: Magdalenes

 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


Further to the Religious Sisters of Charity getting ‘sole ownership’ of the new National Maternity Hospital.

And the online petition, against the move, that has gained more than 75,000 names…

And the Sisters of Charity basing their decision not to pay redress to the Magdalene survivors based on the findings of the McAleese Report…

Readers may wish to recall the following reported by Conor Ryan and Clare O”Sullivan, in the Irish Examiner, back in February 2013…

The Sisters of Charity made €63m in sell-offs during the boom of which €45m came from the 2001 deal for land around its former laundry in Donnybrook, Dublin.

Last year, the Religious Sisters of Charity, who amassed a €233m property portfolio, said they could not afford to release €3m it promised to put into a trust fund for the victims of institutional child abuse.

The order blamed the decision to reduce its cash offer by 60% on the poor property market.

In 2009, when they supplied details of their assets to the Government, it had financial interests of €33m and sold €63m of property in 10 years. The order said it needed to set aside €38.6m to care for its 264 sisters.

Substantial assets, but no more cash for redress (Irish Examiner, February 2013)

Pic: Gloucester Street Magdalenes via Limerick Museum


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


To access their modest lump sum – which they desperately need – the women are required to sign a waiver, accepting “all the terms of the scheme” and waiving “any right of action against the State or any public or statutory body or agency” arising out of their time in a Magdalene laundry.
In contrast with the judge’s report, there is no mention of (a) private healthcare provision, (b) healthcare for women living abroad, or (c) a dedicated unit to provide advice and support, services to meet other survivors, assistance with housing and education benefits, and the creation and maintenance of a memorial.

How can the women be asked to agree to all terms of a scheme that are not explicit and do not resemble Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations? It would be cynical in the extreme – and an abuse of power – for the Government to use waivers signed by vulnerable women to avoid implementing the scheme it promised last year. But that is precisely what it seems to be doing.

We also know of three survivors who have died and two others who have experienced repeated hospitalisations since the Taoiseach’s apology last year. Time is not on these women’s side. Further delays and more broken promises are simply unacceptable.

Magdalene survivors are still waiting for restorative justice (Maeve O’Rourke and James Smith, Irish Times)

Internment, you say?

Over a period of 60 years from 1922 to 1996 a European Sovereign State interned without trial thousands of young females. They handed them over to jailers who beat, humiliated and in many cases worked them to death and buried them in unmarked graves.

They forced them to work without pay under slave labour conditions whilst profiting from their output. No, this wasn’t Nazi Germany or Perfidious Albion, it was the Catholic Irish State whose sustained ill-treatment of those young women in the Magdalene laundries was infinitely worse than any methods allegedly used by the British Army in any of its counter-terrorist campaigns.

Next time Sinn Fein hold an anti-internment rally, maybe they will do it in O’Connell Street, Dublin, rather than than Royal Avenue, Belfast. Let him who is without sin, etc.



Internment without trial (Letters, Belfast News Letter)









UN9Including some unfinished Magdalene business.

Document here (click on E under ‘List of Issues’ in the row for Holy See).

UN rights body poses tough questions to Vatican over child abuse (Reuters)

UN questions Vatican over child abuse cases (BBC)

Previously: Cardinal Brady: More Than Just A Note Taker

Cardinal Brady: Accused


Thanks Edel



Doubts have emerged on whether Magdalene women who have previously received compensation because they resided in industrial schools or other institutions will qualify for further payment under the new scheme.

The president of the Law Reform Commission, Mr Justice John Quirke (above) is to recommend criteria to be applied when assessing provision in terms of “payments” and supports such as medical cards and counselling services to the Magdalene women.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman said the issue of further compensation for women who were sent to the laundries from industrial schools – and were thus compensated by the State Redress Board – “will be considered by Judge Quirke”.

Support groups for the Magdalene women said it would be difficult to quantify the number of women who received compensation through the Redress Board – but Claire McGettrick of Justice for Magdalenes said it would be “at least dozens”.

She said “without exception” every woman she had spoken to who had dealt with the Redress Board had been told “not to speak” about being compensated for time spent in laundries. “One woman told me that her solicitor just drew a red line through her time in the laundry.”

Tough gig, your honour.

Tough gig.

New redress scheme may not include all Magdalenes (Mary Minihan, Colin Gleeson, Irish Times)

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

Further to our post on the Magdalene report.

The many defenders of the report maintain that Martin McAleese did the best job he could, given the very narrow remit he was handed by the government.

Namely to investigate the extent of state involvement in the running of the laundries

But Mr McAleese frequently went outside his remit.

And not to the benefit of the women who worked in the laundries.

His remit-breaching culminated in Chapter 19, entitled Living and Working Conditions, which has three strands –  testimonies from the women who lived there, the religious orders who ran the laundries and others who would have witnessed the workings of the laundries, such as visiting doctors, priests, etc.

While Mr McAleese was under no obligation to carry out any of this work, what’s intriguing is what material ended up in Chapter 19.

The Justice for Magdalenes group carried out exhaustive research and gathered testimonies from the women, which ran to 800 pages (above).

But these lengthy first-hand accounts [see section at end of post], which included allegations of cruel mistreatment were not included in the report. Instead, there are quotations from survivors claiming no physical abuse took place at the laundries.

Chapter 19’s testimonies from those who witnessed the workings of the laundries also spoke relatively well of the laundries, while the less-favourable testimonies gathered by the JFM group were not included.

So why haven’t these women’s stories been published?

And of the testimonies it took It seems the Committee felt there was information circulating about the laundries which was factually unverified and took it upon itself to correct this based on the information which had come before it in the course of its work.

This was despite the fact that the information in question had not been compiled as part of a proper investigation into living and working conditions but rather in the context of giving women who wanted to share their stories a voice as outlined above.

It appears that the women who wished to tell their stories were those who voluntarily approached the Committee or were put forward by interest groups.

There is no reference to there having been any attempt on the part of the Committee to request stories from women in the laundries generally.

In the absence of this, presumably many women in the laundries would not have known of the facility to contact the Committee and tell their story about life within the laundry (particularly as the Committee’s official remit was confined to State involvement).

The Committee acknowledges that its investigation into conditions within the laundry is a story-telling exercise and incomplete and it says that, because of this, it is not going to make formal findings of fact.

However, in Chp 19, it does make formal findings of fact in particular that stated above, namely that life in the laundry was not as bad as life in reformatory schools and that the factual evidence before it contradicted other accounts of life in the laundry.

If these are not findings of fact, what are?

In addition, although Chp 2 and Chp 19 justify inclusion of living and working conditions on the basis of the entitlement of women to have their stories told and recorded by far the greater weight in Chp 19 is given to the stories of others, some of whom had very limited involvement with the laundry e.g. a novice who spent a week there and GPs and charity workers who visited very occasionally and were not there on a day-to-day basis.

Some of these people are named and some are not named and there is no indication in either Chp 2 or Chp 19 as to why some are named and some are not named.

But that’s for another day.

What The Magdalene Report Left Out (And In)Continue reading →