By Jennifer Hough

24th of May, 2011

A UN committee urged the Government to set up an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Magdalene Laundries and give redress to the women who suffered because of the institutions.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) said the women should be given an apology as an acknowledgement of what happened so they could “get their dignity back”.

Members of UNCAT yesterday asked government representatives in Geneva about its intentions to investigate the Magdalene laundries abuse promptly, impartially and comprehensively, in accordance with its obligations under Articles 12 and 13 of the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The committee also requested information from the state as to how it will ensure redress and compensation for the women who suffered in the laundries, in line with its obligation under Article 14 of the convention.

Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor advocacy group, calling on the Irish Government to act immediately and initiate an independent investigation into human rights violations suffered by the women.

JFM spokeswoman, Claire McGettrick, said the state could fulfil its responsibilities by obtaining reparations from the Catholic Church for its part in the women’s abuse. She said the majority of survivors are elderly, and adversarial models of inquiry and redress would have the opposite effect of adding to their pain and sense of injustice.

Maeve O’Rourke, who presented JFM’s submission to the committee, said UNCAT, along with the Irish Human Rights Commission, had taken an extremely serious view of the abuse of women and girls in the Magdalene Laundries and the state’s responsibility for it.

“Yesterday’s comments by the committee members unequivocally recognise the rights of the women who are still alive to an investigation, an apology, redress and treatment with dignity.”

Meanwhile, a delegation from the Bethany Home survivors group will today meet Education Minister Ruairi Quinn at Leinster House

Derek Leinster, chairman of the group, said he was very grateful to the minister for agreeing to meet with them. The delegation will put its case to the minister in the hope that the Bethany Home is included in the Redress scheme, which awards compensation to victims of institutional abuse.

Last year unmarked graves of 219 Bethany children who died between 1922-49, were discovered in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin 8, by Bethany researcher Niall Meehan.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, May 24, 2011