The latest Justice For Magdalenes Research (JFMR ) figures reveal that 1,663 women died in the Catholic Church run institutions. This total is almost double the figure cited in the McAleese report from the Irish government.

The report, published in 2013, led by Senator Martin McAleese, was a “Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries.” This report only reported 879 deaths.

Now the JFMR’s latest figures, which will be included in a dissection of the McAleese report, state that 1,663 women died.

The group, Justice for Magdalenes, comprises survivors, family members of survivors, long-time activists in human rights and adoption reform, academics, researchers, archivists, and representatives from the political community.

Claire McGettrick of JFMR said the McAleese report left more questions than answers about the deaths of women in Magdalene Laundries. She added that the upcoming Mother and Baby Homes inquiry needed to look at the issue.

A draft of this dissection of the report was seen by the Irish Examiner.

The JFMR alleges errors in the McAleese report’s basic findings, including the fact that it did not include the number of women who had died in these institutions before 1922 and those who died in the care of religious orders after the closure of the laundries.

The research group also claims that this gap could be even larger due to the way that the McAleese report presents the figures. It makes it impossible to build an exact breakdown. The report does not have a breakdown of burial sites, in public or convent cemeteries. It also does not offer a breakdown of the number of women who entered the Magdalene Laundries. This makes it impossible to calculate what percentage of women who entered these institutions died there.

The McAleese report dealt with the Sisters of Mercy-run laundries in a superficial manner due to incomplete records.

The JFMR said it had submitted large amount of information, gathered as part of its “Magdalene Names Project,” to the McAleese report. This included information from survivors, testimonies about death and burials, gravestones, electoral registers, exhumation orders and newspaper archives. The JFMR says “all of these submissions were ignored.”

JFMR also claims that the investigation completely ignored the issue of unmarked mass graves.

The Department of Justice responded to JFMR’s figures with a statement saying the McAleese report committee no longer exists and could not respond. They added that the committee had taken on board the JFMR’s submitted evidence at the time.

It added that many of the general allegations made by JFM were “not supported by the facts uncovered by the McAleese Committee” and that an analysis of its oral testimony “was not in fact testimony of persons who had been in the institutions or of persons who had direct knowledge of the facts.”

Unidentified Magdalene laundry in Ireland, circa early twentieth century. Justice for For Magdalenes Research report doubles figures cited in earlier McAleese report.Wikimedia Commons