It is understood that the inter-departmental committee, set up to clarify any state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries, was due to meet initially this week but that the real work of the committee would not begin until after the summer break in September.
When asked for a set date for the first meeting of the committee, which is chaired by Dr Martin McAleese, the Department of Justice said it could not comment as the committee was independent.
“The committee is independent and it would not be appropriate for the Department to be providing information or commenting on its work,” said a statement.
Without any firm date having been set down as to its first meeting, survivors group Justice for Magdalene’s (JFM) has expressed its concern that the apparent lack of urgency would impact upon when the committee was required to issue its report.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter requested the group to report to Cabinet on the progress being made by the committee within three months of the group’s first meeting.
Prof James Smith of JFM said that, as the women affected are elderly, it was hoped the committee would have started as a matter of urgency so as to report its findings as soon as possible.
“The Government’s inquiry needs to work with more urgency to bring about restorative justice and reparations to Ireland’s Magdalene survivors. These women have already waited too long for justice.
“They have waited too long for Church and State to say ‘sorry’. There are survivors in hospital, who cannot pay their bills, who are living every day with the physical, emotional and financial effects of having been in a Magdalene Laundry. They need help now. But they are still waiting,” said Prof Smith.
Earlier this month, JFM wrote to the justice minister and 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.