Magdalene report: 'There was a legal basis for way state operated'

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.

The 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.

Between 1922 and 1996 around 10,000 women are known to have entered Magdalen laundries, working for no pay in what were lonely and frightening places.

Senator McAleese and his committee were asked to outline the extent of state involvement and knowledge of the women in these laundries.

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.

But 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.

The 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.

It found no allegations of sex abuse against nuns and the torture, beatings and abuse meted out in the industrial and reform schools was not present.

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.

But the report’s authors acknowledge that they only spoke just over 100 women who entered the school and others may have different stories to tell.

The entire report can be viewed here .

The 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.

These were:

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.

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