Victims groups have accused the McAleese committee of not being “transparent” by springing interviews on survivors without prior knowledge and weakening the inquiry by not issuing a public call for victims to come forward.
to the Ryan Report into child abuse, the then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern,
apologised to the residents of the industrial schools and then issued a
public call for survivors to come forward. According to the victims
groups, this led to a sharp increase in numbers coming forward.
Just over 118 survivors spoke to the committee, and 57 were still
under the charge of the religious orders in nursing homes or sheltered
Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) and Magdalene Survivors
Together also both strongly refuted the report’s assertion there was
no physical abuse in the laundries.
The report stated there
was a marked difference between the regime in industrial schools and the
laundries and that physical abuse did not take place in the laundries:
“A large majority of the women who shared their stories with the
committee said that they had neither experienced nor seen other girls or
women suffer physical abuse in the Magdalene Laundries.”
is understood that the committee discounted initial testimony of
physical abuse from some of the women, as they said that under closer
questioning it emerged that the women were “confusing” their time in the
industrial schools with time at the laundries.
McGettrick of JFM said: “Initially, the committee didn’t even want to
speak to women in person, but we fought for that. The women gave their
testimony verbally and then we were given very little notice of a second
meeting where we were to look at the format of the initial testimony.
Instead, the women were brought in one by one for a meeting with the
commission where they asked repeated questions.
impression was that they were being checked to ensure that their
memories were correct. The women came out of those meetings very quiet
and subdued. None of them, none of us, had been expecting for them to be
questioned like that.”
According to the report: “Subsequent
meetings afforded the committee an opportunity to seek clarifications on
areas of particular interest… Information provided by many of the women
through this process included a clear distinction between some of the
practices in industrial and reformatory schools and the Magdalene
Laundries, in particular in relation to practices of physical punishment
Fifty-three women representing different
survivors groups were interviewed by the committee. As well as the
women living in nursing homes or sheltered accommodation and still under
the legal care of the orders, another 10 women who spent time at St
Mary’s Laundry, Stanhope St, Dublin, also spoke to the team.