Women politicians urged to support Magdalene bid

EVERY woman TD, senator and local councillor received a letter today urging them to support the ongoing campaign to seek justice for survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

The United Nations Commission Against Torture (UNCAT) is also expected to make a ruling on the matter today after it heard the Magdalenes’ case at a session in Geneva last week.

Thousands of Irish women were sent to the laundries, some because they were pregnant outside marriage and others because they were considered uncontrollable. Some women remained there for up to 30 years, where they were treated as unpaid labour. None have ever been compensated or received an apology from the religious orders or from the state for their enforced labour .

The National Women’s Council has called on the female politicians to “ensure justice and human rights prevail” by exerting “their collective influence to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion”.

This is the second time the NWCI has sought support for the Magdalene survivors and its intervention last year led to at least 10 motions being passed by local councils supporting Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) efforts.

For nearly two years, JFM has been fighting a campaign seeking an apology from the state and the religious orders, a compensation scheme and open access to the women’s personal records.

It’s expected that Justice Minister Alan Shatter will make an announcement on the issue of redress in the coming days.

Last November, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) recommended that the state establish an inquiry into abuse at the laundries.

During the UNCAT session, there was widespread criticism of the Government’s attitude to the Magdalene women.

One Department of Justice official said most women entered the laundries voluntarily and said they had never received complaints about criminal offences at the laundries.

In her response to this statement, the committee’s deputy rapporteur Myrna Kleopas stated it was the responsibility of the state to investigate abuses in the Magdalene Laundries under articles 12 and 13 of the convention and to find ways to ensure redress for survivors under article 14.

She said: “In view of the evidence that we have … I think it is the responsibility of the state party to investigate and also to find ways to ensure that these women do obtain redress within the context of article 14.”

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