Department handed report on numbers sent to laundries

A REPORT prepared by the HSE detailing how many young mothers were transferred from state-run mother-and-baby homes to unregulated Magdalene laundries has been handed over to the Department of Health.

Documentation obtained by the Justice for the Magdalenes (JFM) group from state archives show these women were routinely transferred to the religious orders without any prior agreement on when they would be released.

Many of these women spent large periods of their lives confined in the laundries working for nuns, without pay or pension.

However, the Department of Health has so far refused to reveal the numbers of women and children transferred into laundries in this way.

According to JFM, the Department of Local Government and Public Health Annual Report for 1932-33 states that women who had more than one child out of wedlock were described as “an intractable problem” by the state and described as “feeble minded”. It was these women that were directed to the nuns’ laundries.

“With regard to the more intractable problem presented by unmarried mothers of more than one child, the Sisters-in- Charge of the Magdalene Asylums in Dublin and elsewhere throughout the country are willing to co-operate with the local authorities by admitting them into their institutions,” the report states.

“Many of the women appear to be feeble-minded and need supervision and guardianship. The Magdalene Asylum offers the only special provision at present for this class.”

Young women who were regarded as developmentally challenged, flirtatious or promiscuous, and girls who had been abused were also put in the laundries.

It has also emerged over the past two years that capitation grants were also paid by the Department of Justice for women that were “on remand” or “probation” while health boards paid grants for “problem girls” that they perceived as needing protection.

However, in September 2009, the then Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe, said these women were not entitled to redress from the state as the state “did not refer individuals nor was it complicit in referring individuals to Magdalene laundries”.

Since then, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has found a raft of human rights abuses in the way the State dealt with these women.

In the Dáil last night, Health Minister James Reilly said he acquired the information in a report and he would consider it.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is considering the IHRC assessment of the Magdalene laundries and also a proposal for a reparations scheme submitted by JFM.

Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the Socialist Party TDs yesterday demanded information from the government on how they intend providing redress to the survivors of Magdalene laundries.


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