‘Half of Magdalene laundry women in 1950s and 1960s never left again’

Half of the women at one Magdalene laundry in the 1950s and 1960s never left the institution again but died years later behind the convent walls, according to research which strongly contradicts the Martin McAleese report.

A founding member of Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) and the Adoptions Rights Alliance, Claire McGettrick, is due to speak at the Mother Jones Festival in Cork next week where she will discuss her concerns about the narrative adopted in the McAleese study into state involvement in the laundries.

“JFM research has found that 50% of the women who were resident at the Donnybrook laundry between 1954 and 1964 remained there until their death, never seeing freedom,” said Ms McGettrick.

“Similar research at Hyde Park laundry has revealed that 30% of the women resident at the laundry between 1954 and 1964 also remained under the care of the nuns until they died.”

According to the McAleese report, the median duration of stay at the laundries was 27.6 weeks, yet more than half of survivors claiming redress said they remained at the laundries for almost five years.

The Mother Jones Festival will celebrate the life’s work of a Cork woman who became one of the leading trade unionists in the US. As part of the event, Ms McGettrick will outline gaps in the McAleese conclusions on length of stay and burials of women. She will also criticise the rollout of the redress scheme, particularly the failure to provide free medical care to women now living outside Ireland.

JFM has consistently underlined how the McAleese report fails to acknowledge that duration of stay was not recorded for about half of admissions to the laundries and that its conclusions are therefore incomplete.

A report from the UN Human Rights Committee yesterday backed up JFM’s assertion that the planned commission of investigation into mother-and-baby homes must also examine the Magdalene laundries.

It said Ireland should “conduct a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation into all allegations of abuse in Magdalene laundries, children’s institutions, and mother-and-baby homes”.

It said Ireland should “prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offence” , and ensure all victims obtain an effective remedy, including appropriate compensation and rehabilitation.

Ms McGettrick said: “Once again, a UN committee has backed up what we have said all along. The McAleese report was not independent and thorough. This subject needs to be examined by a commission of investigation.”

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