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Magdalene Survivors Seek Recognition with United Nations Committee Against Torture

Survivors seek recognition and voice their concerns

,, , April 26, 2011, 7:45 AM by CATHY HAYES

An advocacy group for the survivors of the Magdalene laundry has made a submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

For the first time the UN Committee plans to examine Ireland with relations to human rights obligation to prevent torture, other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They will meet on May 23rd and 24th.
Justice for Magdalenes, advocacy group,  wants to draw the Committee's attentions to Ireland's legal duties under the Convention Against Torture, have them investigate allegations of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and to ensure redress for the victims of such treatment.
Maeve O'Rourke, author of JFM's submission, and Harvard Law School 2010 Global Human Rights Fellow, said "The submission highlights the continuing degrading treatment that the women who spent time in Magdalene Laundries are suffering today because of the government's ongoing failure to apologize, investigate and compensate for the abuse.

For almost two years JFM has worked with various government departments advocating for survivors’ needs. 
Chair of the Irish Women’s Support Network, London, and Member of JFM’s Advisory Committee, Councillor Sally Mulready, said "The women were deprived of their liberty, and forced into a form of penal and religious servitude.  Compelled to work in the harshest of conditions, they never knew if they would ever again see the outside world again.”

Professor James Smith, Member of JFM’s Advisory Committee, added “we have waited nearly six months for the government’s response to the Irish Human Rights Commission’s unambiguous recommendation to initiate a statutory inquiry on this issue…Simply put, some of these women may not have another six months to wait.  The time for action is now!”

The submission of this report coincides with the airing of a Joe Duffy documentary on RTE's Radio One (the national broadcaster). A woman who spent her life in institutions in Ireland, including the Magdalene laundry spoke on "Were You There".

Mary Smith's mother was brought to the laundry while pregnant with her. She said that she finds it utterly impossible to forgive those responsible. She said "there is no God . . . Jesus had it easy . . . I would have preferred being crucified to what I’ve been through”.

Read more: Irish Attorney General to examine Magdalene Laundries report

The following is one of the Comments published in response to the article:

Posted by mamaginnty on Apr 26, 2011, 07:21 PM EDT

The Magdalene sisters is a film worth watching, what those poor women suffered. The babies were sold mainly to Americans. My sister has been best friends with one of these woman from 1965, that poor woman is still a nervous wreck in her 70s and still cries for the baby they stole, has tried for years to find out where he was send, but no record was found. She tells of being raped by 3 priests and beaten almost daily by nuns when she mentioned her baby. She is still fighting for justice like many others. She never married because she was brainwashed into thinking no child would love her because she was such a sinner. Yes... there was a few good priests and nuns, but the few were as much to blame because they hid it. If there is a god above why did he have these sort of sicko's serve in his name. Someone said in a comment a few days ago .."well at least they did not kill", bodies have been found of young people in unmarked graves on some of these Magdaline properties. I try not to think about how or why. But the truth will come out with the help of the good people who are fighting for these women. Now I believe in the devil and his works.


Irish Attorney General to Examine Magdalene Laundries Report Published Thursday, November 11, 2010, 4:44 AM by Molly Muldoon

Magdalene Girls Outside Laundry - Archive Photo
Archive photography of young girls outside a Magdalene Laundry

The Irish Government has requested the Attorney General to examine a damning report by the state's human rights watchdog which calls for a statutory enquiry into the running of  the Magdalene Laundries.

On Tuesday, Fianna Fail TDs, Tom Kitt and Michael Kennedy and Labour's Kathleen Lynch called on the state and religious orders to take responsibility for the abuse that occurred in the laundries.

After assessing documents presented to them by the Justice for Magdalene’s group, the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) found there "was clear state involvement in women’s entry to the laundries" and the state may have breached international human rights law by failing to stop these women being "held in servitude".

The IHRC also concluded the state involvement may have breached international law.

"These secretive institutions should have been inspected, but the state instead washed its hands of these vulnerable, trapped young women," Olive Braiden, Ireland's human rights commissioner, said in an interview.

The Magdalene Laundries where a network of 10 Catholic operated workhouses in Ireland which existed from the 1920s to mid-1990s. Women were remanded in the laundries by courts, religious bodies or their own families. Many women who conceived children out of wedlock were banished to the laundries and forced to give up their children for adoption after birth.

Many of the woman housed in the institutions were subjected to verbal and physical abuse while they worked in the privately run laundry facilities.

“The real problem is the dearth of information, the dearth of records. It is only with a state inquiry that we will uncover the truth of what happened to women," Braiden added.

Despite numerous government investigations in the last decade into abuse within the Irish Catholic church, the government has repeatedly said it bears no responsibility for what went on within the laundries.