Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Key Magdalene laundry files went missing, says McAleese

Martin McAleeseKEY files on the Magdalene laundries have gone missing, former senator Martin McAleese will reveal in a long-awaited report today.

An estimated 30,000 single mothers and other women were detained over a period of more than seven decades in the laundries operated by four religious orders.

However, it is understood that Dr McAleese's report into the State's involvement in the laundries won't accuse any order of deliberately destroying or withholding files. 

It appears that the records were untraceable despite concerted efforts to find them.

A source said the level of co-operation from the four religious organisations that ran the laundries had been good.

Sensitive

The appointment of Dr McAleese as the independent chair of the Magdalene laundries group two years ago was seen as a key factor in persuading the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to turn over their sensitive records. 

Dr McAleese resigned his €65,000-per year position as a senator yesterday, having spent 18 months working on the report. 

He is going to spend more time with his wife, former President Mary McAleese, who is studying canon law in Rome.

The report will not call for compensation or a government apology to be delivered because Dr McAleese was prevented from doing this by his terms of reference. 

The women in the Magdalene laundries had to work six days a week without pay, were subjected to physical punishment and had doors locked to prevent their escape.

It is believed over 2,000 children were 'exported' from the laundries to new homes, mainly to wealthy families in the US, usually for a payment from the families.

The Justice for Magdalenes campaign group has fought a 10-year campaign for an official apology from the Irish State and Catholic Church, and a distinct compensation scheme for all survivors.

Its advisory board member James Smith, who is an associate professor at Boston College, said he hoped the Government was listening.

"The women can no longer be held hostage to a political system. Time is of the essence, it is the one commodity many of these woman can ill afford," he said. 

Most of the women who were held in the Magdalene laundries have died, with fewer than 1,000 still alive. 

The last such laundry, at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin, closed in 1996.

There were 10 laundries in total – in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford.

Apology

The National Women's Council of Ireland yesterday supported the call for an apology and compensation scheme for the ageing Magdalene survivors to "bring justice and a sense of peace". 

They were not included in the previous compensation scheme for victims of abuse in industrial schools, which has cost over €1bn.

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