However, in a response from the Department of Justice issued in Aug, the Government said the McAleese report “disproved” many of the assumptions held about the Magdalene Laundries.
It was critical of the 800 pages of survivor testimony provided by JFM, stating that “many of the general allegations relied on reports unsupported by any direct knowledge and were not supported by the facts uncovered by the McAleese committee”.
It also pointed out that JFM provided the testimony of 10 women and that this contrasted with the “much larger sample of 118 women available for the McAleese report”.
The Government also stated that there was an absence of “any credible evidence of systematic torture or criminal abuse in the Magdalen laundries”.
However, JFM Research said out that it submitted 22 testimonies, not 10, to the McAleese Committee and offered to have all sworn. The group said the committee told them that this was not necessary.
It also said the committee accepted written testimony from numerous witnesses, but excluded written testimony submitted by JFM, including for example the testimony of a former paid hand in the Galway Magdalene laundry who detailed beatings, returns of ‘escapees’ by the gardaí and the harsh conditions in which the women lived and worked.
The group also pointed out that of the 118 women interviewed by the McAleese Committee, 58 of these were still in the care of and highly dependent on the religious orders.
Human rights lawyer and JFM Research member Maeve O’Rourke said the Government’s response to UNCAT contained “several inaccuracies”.
“One such inaccuracy is that the median duration of stay for known entrants to the Magdalene Laundries was 27.6 weeks. In actual fact, the substantive report, rather than the executive summary, reveals that duration of stay was not recorded for 58% of known entrants to the laundries,” she said.
JFM also pointed to Mr Justice Quirke, as part of preparing his redress proposals, interviewed a much larger sample of 337 women, 288 of whom provided information about their length of stay which tallied with JFM’s assertions.