The McAleese report is “neither accurate nor respectful” in the suffering women endured in Magdalene laundries, it has been claimed, writes Conall Ó Fátharta.
The comments were made by Claire McGettrick of Justice for Magdalenes Research, accepting a Dublin Lord Mayor Award on behalf of the Magdalene women.
She said survivors felt vindicated by an apology from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but repeated the group’s claim the McAleese report did not disclose the full story with regard to the Magdalene laundries.
“On the surface, the women have been vindicated since Enda Kenny’s emotional apology in 2013.
“Beneath, however, there is the inescapable reality that the official State record on the experiences of Magdalene women is neither accurate nor respectful of what they endured.
“The State’s official position is that a very small level of physical abuse took place in the laundries and we absolutely refute this assertion,” said Ms McGettrick.
“The report which informs that position completely ignored 795 pages of survivor testimony submitted by Justice for Magdalenes which clearly outlined individual instances of physical assault and similar offences, as well as a prevailing culture of abuse in these institutions.”
She also repeated the organisation’s view the State’s position on how long women spent in laundries was not accurate.
“The State’s official position on duration of stay is that most women and girls admitted to the laundries spent less than a year there, and we also refute this claim.
“Research conducted by our organisation on two Dublin laundries indicates that approximately half of the women registered between 1954-64 in High Park and Donnybrook died in those laundries.”
The group pointed out Magdalene survivors present at the ceremony, and the deceased women who were represented by family members, spent a combined total of 127 years and 10 months behind laundry walls.
Ms McGettrick also accused the Government of cutting “corner after corner” on the implementation of the ex-gratia scheme as recommended by Mr Justice Quirke, saying “many issues remain outstanding”.
She also called for justice for the women who died in Magdalene Laundries and who lie in unmarked graves around the country.
The Department of Justice has refuted the organisation’s claims on numerous occasions, stating that it is committed to fully implementing all of Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations.
During a Seanad debate last year, equality minister Aodhán O Riordáin accused JFMR of “misinformation” and issuing “factually incorrect” press releases on the issue.
The Department of Justice has also claimed many of the allegations made by JFMR around duration of stay were “not supported by the facts uncovered by the McAleese Committee”, and that an analysis of its oral testimony “was not, in fact, testimony of persons who had been in the institutions or of persons who had direct knowledge of the facts”.
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