The figures, compiled by Justice For Magdalenes Research (JFMR), are included in a scathing dissection of the McAleese report being prepared by the group — a draft section of which has been seen by the Irish Examiner.
In the lengthy critique of the report’s chapter on deaths, the group states it has so far identified a total of 1,663 who died in Magdalene laundries — almost twice the figure of 879 cited in the McAleese Report.
The JFMR study hits out at a number of the McAleese report’s basic findings, including the fact that it did not include the number of women who died before 1922 and those who died in the care of the religious orders after the laundry closed. JFMR says that some 565 women fall into the former bracket and over 220 women fall into the latter bracket.
The group points out that this figure could be larger but because of how the report presents the figures an exact breakdown is not possible.
JFMR says there are a number of factors contributing to the large gap in the figures, namely that the McAleese Report does not offer a breakdown of various burial sites in either public or convent cemeteries.
As the McAleese Report does not offer any breakdown of the number of women who entered each Magdalene Laundry, JFMR say this makes it impossible to calculate what percentage of women died in each institution. Furthermore, the report addresses laundries run by the Sisters of Mercy separately due to incomplete records.
All of the above complications make it impossible to establish the full extent to which deaths are excluded from the report.
The JFMR study said it had submitted a large amount of information gathered as part of its “Magdalene Names Project” which examines various archives and records — including gravestones, electoral registers, exhumation orders and newspaper archives — to the McAleese report but “all of these submissions were ignored”.
Survivor testimony about death and burials in Magdalene laundries was also submitted to the inquiry but was also ignored. JFMR also hit out at the investigation for “completely ignoring” the issue of unmarked mass graves.
Claire McGettrick of JFMR said the report left more questions than answers about women who died in Magdalene laundries and that the upcoming mother and baby Homes inquiry needed to look at the issue.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the McAleese Committee no longer exists so could not respond and that it could not comment on research it had not seen.
It said the committee took into consideration the JFM research provided at the time of the inquiry.
It said many of the general allegations made by JFM were “not supported by the facts uncovered by the McAleese Committee” and that an analysis of its oral testimony “was not in fact testimony of persons who had been in the institutions or of persons who had direct knowledge of the facts”.