Calls for more transparency in Magdalene investigation

CONCERNS have been raised that the terms of reference for the inter-departmental committee to investigate state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries have yet to be made public.

The Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) group has written to Justice Minister Alan Shatter and independent chairperson of the committee Dr Martin McAleese, to express its concern that the committee’s terms of reference and the powers of the independent chairman have yet to be made public in advance of the committee’s first meeting, which is expected to take place this week.

In the letter to Mr Shatter, Prof James Smith of JFM said such a move was crucial to “ensure transparency” in the process.

“We wish also to put in writing JFM’s continuing concerns regarding the proposed inter-departmental committee. It is important from JFM’s perspective that the committee’s terms of reference be made available publicly as soon as possible, and certainly no later than the end of the committee’s first meeting which you [Mr Shatter] mentioned would take place this week. Likewise, it is important that Dr Martin McAleese’s powers, as independent chair of the Committee, also be made available publicly,” said the letter.

Prof Smith also makes it clear in the letter that the publication of these issues “is crucial” to ensuring the group’s continued support of the Government’s twin-track investigative process.

In both letters, Prof Smith also expressed his concern that the process of clarifying and creating a narrative of state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries extended beyond forms of direct involvement (referring women or girls to the laundries or supporting them by awarding contracts to them and engaging them to provide laundry services) to include acts of omission, or the ways in which the state failed to exercise due diligence in preventing abuse in the laundries (failure to inspect, regulate and monitor them).

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has indicated he is willing to open the Dublin Diocesan Archives for research into Church-state interaction on the laundries.

In a meeting with representatives of JFM last week, Archbishop Martin is also believed to have expressed his support for the inter-departmental committee to clarify any state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries.

He also believed to have agreed to encourage the religious orders involved to meet face-to-face with JFM, something also suggested by Cardinal Seán Brady.

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