Press Release 28th May 2012 – for immediate release
One year after UN Recommendation Magdalene women are no closer to an apology or redress

Justice for Magdalenes (JFM), the survivor advocacy group, is today submitting its NGO Follow Up Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva, Switzerland. This one-year follow up process requires the Irish State to report back on measures taken to put last June’s recommendation on the Magdalene Laundries into effect (see copy of Recommendation below[Note 6]). JFM finds it unacceptable that 12 months later Magdalene survivors are still waiting for an apology, redress and reparation.

JFM will also present a courtesy copy of its Follow Up Report to Ms. Felice Gaer, Director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights and Vice-Chair of UNCAT at an event co-sponsored with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) in Dublin on Monday afternoon (See events details below[Note 1] and please note advisory regarding Ms. Gaer’s attendance at the event in a private capacity [Note 3]).

JFM is delighted to help welcome Felice Gaer to Dublin and to thank her personally for her efforts last year in challenging the ”voluntary” nature of the Magdalene Laundries system, as asserted by the head of the Irish delegation in Geneva last May. (See link to YouTube clip below, Note 5.)

JFM’s Report welcomes the establishment of the Inter-departmental Committee to “clarify state interaction with the Magdalene Laundries.” Nevertheless, the Report points out the ways in which the Inter-departmental Committee does not satisfy the “prompt, thorough and independent” investigation called for by UNCAT. JFM has submitted over 1,500 pages of evidence of State interaction to the Committee. We look forward to the publication of Committee’s report, due by mid-2012.

Maeve O’Rourke, JFM Advisory Committee member, who represented JFM at UNCAT in Geneva and is speaking at today’s event said: “Our report states clearly that the government has failed to implement the UNCAT Recommendation, which called on the state to ensure that Magdalene survivors obtain redress and to establish an independent investigation into the full extent of the abuse. We acknowledge the important work of Senator McAleese’s Committee, however, it should not impede the women’s access to an apology and redress, and we also reserve the right to call for a fully independent inquiry with statutory powers to compel evidence.”

James M. Smith (Boston College and JFM Advisory Committee) said: “While JFM will continue to cooperate with the Interdepartmental Committee, we assert that there is ample evidence of state involvement with the Magdalene Laundries to warrant an apology, pensions and restoring lost wages to this group of aging and elderly women. They need help now while still alive to benefit from it.”

This week JFM will submit the first tranche of newly gathered survivor testimony to Senator McAleese, totalling 519 pages. Claire McGettrick (JFM Advisory Committee member) said: “In the testimonies already gathered, all survivors told us that they could not leave the laundries, that the doors were locked and the windows inaccessible. If they did try to leave they were returned by the Gardaí, while others decided not to try to escape because they knew the same fate awaited them. They all told us they could not complain, in most cases they remarked that there was nobody to complain to; while others begged to leave, often on a daily basis, but all were refused. Every single survivor confirmed that they were never paid, that no inspections were ever carried out and that no government official ever came to check on them.”

JFM is delighted to participate in this event with ICCL and to share our experience at UNCAT with other organisations. Central to JFM’s UNCAT experience was the use of YouTube clips which were made possible by the webcast hosted by the ICCL and the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IRPT) who will also speak at today’s event.