The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR), Sage Support and Advocacy Service (SAGE), the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and Amnesty International Ireland have strongly welcomed today’s report by Ombudsman Peter Tyndall which finds that the Department of Justice has ‘maladaministered’ the Magdalene restorative justice scheme.
Noting in his report that ‘the incarceration of women in the Magdalene laundries and the forced labour to which they were subjected is one of the sorriest episodes in our history’, the Ombudsman decries the ‘opportunity lost’ to provide redress to Magdalene survivors in a spirit reflecting the apology by Enda Kenny TD in 2013.
The Ombudsman criticised the Department of Justice’s failure to enable women deemed to lack capacity to access the scheme. He also found that many women who worked in Magdalene Laundries while registered in connected children’s educational institutions have been unjustly excluded from the scheme.
Liam Herrick of the ICCL said, ‘The exclusion from the redress scheme of girls who worked in Magdalene Laundries while they were supposed to be receiving an education is partly a result of the State’s failure to investigate alleged abuse in Magdalene Laundries and its refusal allow the women to make their experiences known. Earlier this year the UN Committee Against Torture again called on Ireland to undertake a thorough, impartial investigation into the Magdalene Laundries abuse. Our organisations echo that call.’
Orla O’Connor of the NWCI said, ‘Our organisations have consistently demanded a fair and transparent system for operating the Magdalene scheme and other restorative justice schemes. We urge the Minister for Justice to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations and report back to the Ombudsman within the short timeframe given. We also welcome the Ombudsman’s general recommendation that guidance should be developed for the operation of any future restorative justice or redress schemes, based on the experience of Magdalene survivors’.
Mary Condell of Sage said, ‘We agree with the Ombudsman that wardship is not a desirable way of providing access to the scheme for women deemed to lack the ability to manage their own money. It is highly regrettable that the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act is not yet operational. We urge the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to explore the possibility of using a Patient Private Property Account system similar to that used by the HSE rather than wardship. In addition, we call on the Department and the Ombudsman to ensure that independent advocacy is provided to every Magdalene survivor who remains in the care of the religious orders that managed the Laundries. This is particularly important if wardship applications are made.’
Professor James Smith of JFMR said, ‘There are additional shortcomings to the Department’s implementation of the Magdalene scheme. In particular, we call on the Department to advertise the scheme in the United States.’ Dr Katherine O’Donnell of JFMR said, ‘We also urge elected representatives to amend the legislation underpinning the scheme in order to provide the women with the full healthcare package originally promised and not delivered to date.’
Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland said: “The government’s failure to recognise these women exploited as children is a re-victimisation by the state. These women have a right under international human right law to redress and reparation for the harm and human right violations they suffered. It is appalling that this still not been provided. We again remind the government that women and girls in these institutions experienced a range of human rights abuses including inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary deprivation of liberty and forced labour. It is also time the Government stops asserting that the McAleese interdepartmental inquiry was a comprehensive investigation into those abuses. We call on the Government to finally live up to its obligations.”