The UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) has recommended that an independent inquiry be carried out into the abuse of women in Magdalene laundries in Ireland.
Tens of thousands of women were involuntarily committed to Magdalene laundries, many because they got pregnant out of marriage between 1922 and 1996. The institutions were run by nuns.
Thousands were abused, raped, beaten, had babies taken off them and were given dreadful treatment. Many of the babies were adopted to America. A 2002 Hollywood movie ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ focused on their plight
The UN Committees said that it is “gravely concerned at the failure of the State to protect girls and women who were involuntarily confined between 1922 and 1996 in the Magdalene Laundries”.
They stated that “prompt, independent and thorough” investigations were needed and those institutions who caused the suffering should be held accountable. It also called for restitution for the victims.
The Justice for Magdalene’s leader is one such woman, Mari T. Steed is the daughter of a Magdalene survivor, adopted to the U.S. from Ireland and mother to a daughter relinquished to adoption in the U.S.
She was reunited with her mother and extended family. Mari co-founded Justice for Magdalenes in 2003. She resides outside Philadelphia,
James Smith an Associate Professor at Boston College is a member of JFM’s advisory committee.
He told Ireland’s TheJournal.ie that the group “hopes that (justice minister) Mr. Shatter will deliver on his self-appointed deadline of this week to announce the government’s response to the Magdalene Laundries”.
“Today is not about the Justice for Magdalenes group, it’s about the women who experiences this abuse. They are ageing and elderly and don’t have time on their sides.” Smith said.
The Irish Department of Justice had opposed the call for an investigation. They told the UN that, as far as it was aware, the vast majority of women entered the Laundries “voluntarily” or with parental consent.
The Justice for Magdalenes campaign is now looking for an apology and immediate action on the recommendations.