Inquiry into State role in laundries to end by summer

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

THE INTERDEPARTMENTAL committee to establish the facts of State involvement in the Magdalene laundries intends to conclude its work by the middle of 2012, according to an interim report published yesterday.

The four religious congregations involved in running the 10 laundries, where women were detained between 1922 and 1996, have agreed to give the committee full access to relevant records.

“Appropriate safeguards” have been put in place to enable the congregations do so “within the law and while fully respecting the sensitivity and confidentiality of the records”. An order was made by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter “to authorise the disclosure of sensitive personal data to and processing of such data by the committee”.

The religious congregations involved are the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

The interim report said that “in no case would such sensitive personal data be published or made available to the public without the consent of the data subject”, and that this was so whether the person concerned was living or dead. “The names or personal data of former residents of the Magdalene laundries will not be published or otherwise released to the general public,” it said.

Also, an archive of the committee’s work will not include “personal and sensitive personal data”, all of which will be “destroyed and/or returned to the relevant religious order upon conclusion of the committee’s work and publication of its report”.

The committee, under the independent chairmanship of Senator Martin McAleese, includes officials from five Government departments, with another official from the Department of Foreign Affairs advising Mr McAleese.

The report pointed out that as the committee’s role is “a fact-finding one”, “any information provided will be used for the purpose of the committee’s investigations into the facts of State involvement only”.