Magdalene group steps up campaign

JUSTICE for Magdalenes (JFM), the advocacy group calling for a redress system for survivors of Magdalene laundries, has stepped up its campaign as the Justice Minister makes a decision on the issue in the coming weeks.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Disability and Equality Minister Kathleen Lynch, who is a long-time supporter of JFM, are set to discuss the issue this week.

Almost six months ago, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) recommended that the state “establish a statutory mechanism to investigate the matters... and in appropriate cases to grant redress where warranted”.

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen referred the IHRC assessment to the Attorney General for review last November and in March, Mr Shatter announced he was considering “a draft submission for the Government” on the matter.

This weekend, letters were sent to all senior and junior ministers by JFM seeking support for a redress scheme, though Ireland’s economic situation may hamper this.

In its letter to the minister, the group asked for the state’s assistance in bringing the Church and religious orders to the table.

“We continue to reach out to the four religious congregations that operated the laundries, and to members of the Irish hierarchy. The orders refuse to meet with us; they do not answer our correspondence. We did meet with Cardinal Sean Brady in June 2010, and he characterised JFM’s presentation as ‘fair and balanced’. Moreover, he recommended that we approach CORI as a way to facilitate dialogue with the congregations. However, CORI refused our request for a meeting in October 2010,” the letter said.

JFM called on the state and the Catholic Church to apologise and acknowledge the women as survivors of institutional abuse.

Research by JFM shows the Irish Courts Service sent women to these institutions “on probation” and “on remand” and the Department of Health paid capitation grants for “problem girls” sent there up to the 1980s.

The research also highlights how at no time did the state license, regulate or inspect the Magdalene laundries, which always operated on a for-profit basis.

Consequently, survivors do not receive a pension for their compulsory yet unpaid work in harsh conditions.


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