Justice minister defends Laundries report

Friday, June 14, 2013
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has roundly defended the McAleese Report into the Magdalene Laundries saying it was “an independent, comprehensive factual account”.

By Claire O’Sullivan
Irish Examiner Reporter

His defence comes after the UN committee that led to its establishment raised serious questions about the inquiry.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Shatter brushed off recent complaints from the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) the report was “incomplete” and lacked “many elements of a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation”.

“The Irish Government is satisfied that the McAleese Report is an independent, comprehensive, factual account of these institutions … It also showed that many of preconceptions about these institutions were not supported by the facts,” he said in response to questions from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan.

In a recent letter to Irish UN representative Gerard Corr, the vice-chair of UNCAT was highly critical of the inquiry headed by former senator Martin McAleese.

Felice Gaer said the probe failed adequately to examine allegations of physical abuse, forced labour, and arbitrary detention. She also urged the Government to ensure that “that there is a full enquiry into all complaints of abuse”.

Mr Shatter said his department was considering the letter from Ms Gaer and that it would issue a response in due time.

Mr Justice John Quirke’s proposed “scheme of supports” for Magdalene survivors is to be made public in the next two weeks.

Independent TD Mick Wallace called for Summerhill Laundry in Co Wexford to be included in the Quirke scheme, saying former inmates had told him that they had their identity and personal belongings removed by the nuns, their hair cut short, and were forced to wear a uniform.

He also said the women were punished if they were “found to be speaking” and were not given any schooling, pens or books. There were also calls from Sinn Féin for the Sisters of Mercy laundry in Clifden and St Josephs Laundry in Birr to be included.

Mr Wallace also asked the minister if he would ensure that the Quirke redress scheme would be transparent, independent, and include an appeals process while Ms McDonald asked if the Quirke process would be put on a statutory footing.

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