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Irish government pressed on Magdalene abuse

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has repeated its earlier requests for an independent investigation into the Magdalene Laundries abuse in Ireland and the issue of redress for the women who suffered.

During an UNCAT hearing in Geneva last week, the Irish government responded to a series of questions asked as part of the examination by the committee.

According to a release issued by the lobby group Justice for Magdelenes and which drew on testimony at the hearing, Seán Aylward, secretary general of the Department of Justice and Equality, and head of the Irish delegation, began by responding to questions about the Irish government's failure to investigate and provide redress for abuses in Ireland's Magdalene Laundries.

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Mr. Aylward, according to the release, repeated his assertion to the committee that these abuses happened a considerable time ago in private institutions.

He argued that the department had received no complaints of criminal offences from laundry survivors. He said that the majority of women entered the laundries voluntarily, and if they were minors, with the consent of parents or guardians.

He added that only one institution in Dublin was used as a remand center, and in those cases, the period of detention lasted only a matter of days in most cases.

He also claimed that this institution was subject to inspection and that there is no evidence of mistreatment in these cases. Mr. Aylward concluded his comments on this issue by informing the Committee that the government is considering how to deal with the issue, and that he cannot anticipate how it will decide to respond.

In her response, Madame Myrna Kleopas, the committee's deputy rapporteur, reiterated that it was the responsibility of the state to investigate abuses in the Magdalene Laundries under Articles 12 and 13 of the convention against torture and to find ways to ensure redress for survivors under Article 14.

"You said yourself that even your definition of torture contains the element of omission and this is again one of those cases where the state party might have failed to exercise due diligence to protect these people," Kleopas told Aylward.

"And in view of the evidence that we have, I think it is the responsibility of the state party to investigate and also to find ways to ensure that these women do obtain redress," she said.