The government has issued the following statement on the Magdalene Laundries.
The Government today considered the circumstances of the women and girls who resided in the Magdalene Laundries. The Government welcomed the statement made last week by CORI on behalf of the four congregations, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy and the Good Shepherd Sisters who indicated their “willingness” to “bring clarity, understanding, healing and justice in the interests of all the women involved”. The Government believes it is essential to fully establish the true facts and circumstances relating to the Magdalene Laundries as a first step. The following has been agreed:
1. An Inter-departmental Committee will be established, chaired by an independent person, to clarify any State interaction with the Magdalene Laundries and to produce a narrative detailing such interaction.
2. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD and the Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD are to meet with the religious congregations and the groups representing former residents of the Magdalene Laundries. Their discussions will include addressing the following matters;
a. The making available by the congregations of all records maintained by them with regard to the residents of the Magdalene Laundries to enable all available information about former residents to be shared with them and also made available for appropriate research purposes.
b. The provision of information concerning the number of persons currently residing with or in the care of the religious congregations who originally commenced such residence in the Magdalene Laundries and who have remained in their care.
c. To discuss the putting in place of a restorative and reconciliation process and the structure that might be utilised to facilitate such process.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence together with the Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, will now be following up on this Government decision with the relevant parties. Consideration is being given to the appropriate independent person to appoint to chair the Inter-departmental Committee. It was agreed by government that an initial report should be made to Cabinet on the progress being made by the Inter-departmental Committee within 3 months of its
This seems to be a very weak response from the minister, Alan Shatter, who in opposition spoke as follows on the Dáil record in 2009:
Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation in the new year to amend the redress board legislation to extend it to those who suffered barbaric cruelty in the Magdalen laundries? The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform now has irrefutable evidence that this State and the courts colluded in sending young women to what were then known as the Magdalen asylums. They ended up in the Magdalen laundries and were treated appallingly. Some of them have never recovered from the manner in which they were treated and their lives have been permanently blighted. Initially in this House the Minister for Education and Science denied that the State had any involvement in this. There is now absolutely irrefutable evidence as a consequence of court records and files that have been examined in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the State was directly complicit in many women being placed in these totally inappropriate circumstances.
To his credit, Fianna Fáil TD Tom Kitt concurred with Shatter as follows:
Professor James Smith from Boston came here on Tuesday and I facilitated a meeting with him of an all-party group of Oireachtas Members. He has presented very strong evidence that the young women were routinely referred to various Magdalen asylums via the Irish court system. The Garda actually returned women who escaped from these laundry institutions even though these women should have been perfectly free to leave. Professor Smith met officials from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and got a very positive response. On the basis of this new evidence I ask the Taoiseach to look again at the need to address the case of the Magdalen laundries. The Government is following up on the recommendations of the Ryan report, but these people are being excluded. It is a matter of justice and principle.
Something seems to change in people when they assume ministerial office. I don’t know what the process is, but people seem to lose their humanity. I’m reminded of a similar instance as long ago as 1946. The famous Father Flanagan of Boystown visited Ireland and was appalled at the abuse inflicted on children locked up in religious-run institutions. When Justice Minister Gerry Boland was asked in the Dáil about Flanagan’s comments, he replied as follows:
I have a cutting from a paper which contains a statement to that effect. I was not disposed to take any notice of what Monsignor Flanagan said while he was in this country, because his statements were so exaggerated that I did not think people would attach any importance to them. When, however, on his return to America he continues to make use of statements of this kind, I feel it is time that somebody should reply … All I have got to say is that these schools are under the management of religious Orders, who are self-effacing people, and who do not require any commendation from me.
Thus spake Gerry Boland, the well-known patriot and republican.
It seems little has changed in 65 years. What happened to Alan Shatter’s former zeal for protecting human rights? What exactly does this mean?
The Government welcomed the statement made last week by CORI on behalf of the four congregations, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy and the Good Shepherd Sisters who indicated their “willingness” to “bring clarity, understanding, healing and justice in the interests of all the women involved”.
What about forcing them to cooperate whether they like it or not? Wouldn’t that be a mark of a mature democracy, given Shatter’s unequivocal question?
Does the Taoiseach intend to introduce legislation in the new year to amend the redress board legislation to extend it to those who suffered barbaric cruelty in the Magdalen laundries?
Barbaric cruelty, according to Shatter before he became a minister.
Let us hope that Shatter is a better man than Batt O Keeffe who, as minister for education, belittled the plight of the Magdalene slaves when he referred to them as employees. This is despicable, but probably no more than one might expect from a minister of the worst government we have ever known.
I have always held considerable regard for Alan Shatter as a man and as a politician. I still retain hope that he will show more respect for his fellow human beings.
Time will tell.
See also Justice for the Magdalenes