Magdalene case goes to UN

THE advocacy group seeking justice for women kept at Magdalene laundries will today take their campaign to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

Earlier this week, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter told the Dáil that his department has prepared a draft submission for the Government on the Magdalene laundries and he intends bringing it to Cabinet in early June at the latest. The HSE has also drawn up a report on the laundries for the minister’s consideration.

“I expect to be in a position to make certain announcements after my colleagues in Government have had an opportunity to consider the matter. I hope matters will be advanced in a positive and helpful way as a consequence of the proposals that will be brought forward,” Mr Shatter said.

Maeve O’Rourke from the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group is due to make a verbal submission to the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva today, where she will tell the panel that former residents still alive today, continue to suffer degrading treatment in violation of Article 16 of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).

JFM estimate that tens of thousands of women were sent to the laundries. Many of them are dead.

Ms O’Rourke will also argue, by refusing to investigate and ensure redress for survivors, the state is disregarding its obligations under UNCAT Articles 12-14.

“They have received no apology from the state, no investigation, no redress, and no compensation for their abuse. They receive no pension for their unpaid labour,” said.

Between 1922 and 1996, 10 Magdalene laundries operated here, run by four Catholic orders of nuns.

JFM is arguing the state had a role to play in the laundries as it knew children were imprisoned there and were supplying child labour. They have also shown state policy required the transfer of ‘repeat’ unmarried mothers from state-funded mother and baby homes to the unregulated laundry institutions. It has also harshly criticised the state for not forcing the religious orders to release their detailed records on Magdalene detainees.

In November 2010, the Irish Human Rights Commission said there is sufficient evidence of state responsibility for unlawful imprisonment, servitude, forced labour and cruel and degrading treatment, and called for a statutory inquiry into human rights violations at the laundries.

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