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Archive photography of young girls outside a Magdalene Laundry

Irish Attorney General to examine Magdalene Laundries report

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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.

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