Group seeks statutory Laundries inquiry

A commission of inquiry into State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries should still be established by the Government because the focus of the McAleese report was too narrow, a leading human rights group has claimed.

Group seeks statutory Laundries inquiry

This is the second such call for a statutory inquiry in recent weeks after the UN Committee Against Torture also warned the Government that the report did not meet its satisfaction.

However, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has said it does not want any such statutory inquiry, which would be similar to the Murphy or Ryan report, “to hold up” a redress scheme for the Magdalene women.

Mr Justice John Quirke is expected to announce his proposals on redress in the coming weeks.

“Redress should be immediate,” said Siobhán Mullally, IHRC’s commissioner, and a statutory inquiry could follow afterwards.

Prof Mullally said that “any such process should be established in consultation with survivors” and this view was echoed by the Justice for Magdalenes research advocacy group.

However, Steven O’Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together said he did not believe a statutory inquiry “would be beneficial” as the members of his group, aged 60-97, believed “that everything that needs to be articulated has been articulated already”.

He would like to see the redress scheme rolled out by the end of August.

While welcoming the contribution of the McAl-eese report, the IHRC said it fell short of “drawing any conclusions on the human rights of girls and women placed in the laundries”. The report published yesterday sought to fill this gap.

The IHRC is seeking a “comprehensive redress scheme” that provides individual compensation to each woman based on the individual human rights contraventions they experienced.

This analysis of the McAleese report found women in the laundries lost their rights to equality, liberty, a private life, education, and to be free from forced or compulsory labour or servitude.

“The extent of such violations and their ongoing impact needs to be factored into the determination of individual compensation and ongoing supports,” said Prof Mullally.

She also highlighted how the State availed of and benefited from forced or compulsory labour at the laundries, “when it entered into commercial contracts with the laundries on the basis of being the cheapest, but the crucial factor here was the workers were unpaid”.

Last night the Department of Justice said the IHRC report raised a “wide range of issues affecting a number of government departments and requires consideration before any comment can be made”.

Earlier this year in his report, Martin McAleese, showed that 10,000 women and girls entered Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and the mid-1990s.

It found that the State was directly involved in the running of the laundries, with just over one quarter of referrals made by or facilitated by the State.

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