Compensation plea over laundries
Published 18/06/2013 | 12:19
Comprehensive compensation is needed for survivors of Magdalene laundries including unpaid wages and pensions and rehab for forced labour, a watchdog has claimed.
The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said Martin McAleese's investigation into the institutions fell short as he did not draw any conclusions on the human rights obligations of the State.
The commission called on the Government to stop caring for the intellectually disabled in psychiatric institutions and to allow people who were adopted, either formally or informally, to trace their birth relatives.
Professor Siobhan Mullally, IHRC commissioner, said its follow-up report was filling a gap left by the McAleese inquiry.
"The Report of the Interdepartmental Committee confirms extensive State involvement in Magdalene laundries but it falls short of drawing any conclusions on the human rights obligations of the State," she said.
Prof Mullally said the human rights of women and girls sent to laundries were not respected. "The State acted wrongfully in failing to protect these women by not putting in place adequate mechanisms to prevent such violations, and by failing to respond to their allegations over a protracted period," she said. "Credible allegations of abuse should always be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated."
The IHRC's Follow-up Report on State Involvement with Magdalene Laundries reviewed Mr McAleese's report and found breaches of human rights "in relation to equality, liberty, respect for private life, education, and to be free from forced or compulsory labour or servitude".
Prof Mullally said compensation must match the human rights violations and their ongoing impact. She called for redress to compensate and take account of lost wages, pensions and social welfare benefits. Rehabilitation supports are also needed including housing, education, health and welfare and assistance to deal with the psychological effects of the time spent in the laundries, she said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny made a tearful apology to the Magdalene survivors in February after Mr McAleese's inquiry revealed the State had a hand in 24% of admissions to the laundries. His investigation found that 10,000 women were incarcerated in the workhouses, run by nuns from four religious orders, for a myriad of reasons - from petty crime to poverty, disability or pregnancy outside marriage.
The Justice for Magdalenes group said the redress scheme needs to be independently monitored, with an appeals process. They called for it to be advertised at home and abroad, to include independent advice and advocacy assistance for survivors and their families, and for women in institutions to be given the added protection of guardian ad litem to speak on their behalf.