The committee set up to inquire into the Magdalene laundries has found clear evidence of state involvement in the religious run work houses.
However, it notes that there was a legal basis for the way the state operated.
report, written under the chairmanship of Senator Martin McAleese,
finds that more than a quarter of 10,000 women who entered the laundries
were referred there by the state.
But it paints a more benign picture of life in the laundries than may be popularly believed.
1922 and 1996 around 10,000 women are known to have entered Magdalen
laundries, working for no pay in what were lonely and frightening
Senator McAleese and his committee were asked to outline
the extent of state involvement and knowledge of the women in these
In each of the five categories it examined, it found
evidence of state involvement. Most notably, 26% of the women who
entered the laundries were referred there by the state.
The authorities also inspected the laundries, funded them, and registered the departures and deaths of the women there.
it found that there was a legal basis for the state's involvement as
many of the women were referred by the courts as a condition of
probation, or under supervision after enrolment in industrial schools.
committee did not find physical abuse or torture to be a feature of the
schools and there was no evidence that the women were sexually abused.
It found that the regime depicted the movie the Magdalene Sisters did not reflect the reality of life in the laundries.
found no allegations of sex abuse against nuns and the torture,
beatings and abuse meted out in the industrial and reform schools was
Verbal and psychological abuse was common, alongside the deep hurt felt by the women at their loss of freedom, the report found.
Women rarely had their heads shaved as punishment but rather they had their hair cut back short in a bob, the report also found.
More than 100 women were spoken to by the inquiry committee, more than half of whom are in nursing homes.
the report’s authors acknowledge that they only spoke just over 100
women who entered the school and others may have different stories to
The entire report can be viewed here .
10 Magdalene laundries within the mandate of the committee were
established prior to the foundation of the state. Senator Martin
McAleese's report deals with the period from 1922 onwards.
Five principal areas of possible State involvement were examined by the committee.
1. Routes by which girls and women entered the laundries;
2. Regulation of the workplace and State inspections of the laundries;
3. State funding of and financial assistance to the laundries
(including contracts for laundry services);
4. Routes by which girls and women left the laundries;
5. Death registration, burials and exhumations.
In each of these areas, the committee found evidence of direct state involvement.