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To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to set up an independent inquiry body to investigate all complaints of abuse in relation to the Magdalene Laundries, as recommended by the United Nations Committee Against Torture and re-emphasised by UNCAT vice-chairperson (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace

For PRIORITY answer on Thursday, 13th June, 2013

REPLY

The UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) issued its concluding observations on Monday 6 June 2011, following Ireland’s first examination in Geneva, under Article 19 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  Its concluding observations covered a wide range of areas which impact on the remit of several Government Departments.

In relation to the Magdalen Laundries, the Committee recommended that "the State should institute prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that were allegedly committed in the Magdalen Laundries and, in appropriate cases, prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences committed, and ensure that all victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible”.

The Inter-Departmental Committee chaired by Senator McAleese was not established in response to that recommendation and was never intended to be a criminal investigation but was a necessary preliminary step in establishing general facts.  The Irish Government is satisfied that the McAleese report provides an independent, comprehensive, factual account of the Magdalen institutions.   Some of these institutions had ceased operations nearly 50 years previously and there was no reliable account available of their operations.  It brought into the public arena a considerable amount of information not previously known.  It also showed that many of the preconceptions about these institutions were not supported by the facts.

With regard to prosecutions, the only mechanism to prosecute and punish perpetrators for offences committed in this jurisdiction requires a criminal investigation, a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute and then a criminal trial.   Irish law does not provide for any other type of inquiry to lead to criminal prosecutions.  Any complaint of criminal behaviour made by any individual to the Gardaí regarding Magdalen laundries are matters that can be investigated by the Gardaí.

The Rapporteur for the follow-up on Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture has written recently seeking clarification and further information on a number of matters including matters relating to Magdalen Laundries.

I think it would be unfair to the UN Committee to suggest that such a committee would come to conclusions without hearing from all sides.  Rather my understanding from the letter is that it is has received information from non-governmental sources that raise issues and it is now seeking clarification and further information from the Irish State so that it can consider the matter in a fully informed manner.   A detailed response to the queries raised is being prepared and will be forwarded to the Rapporteur through the correct channels in due course.

 

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