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Irish government orders new probe of Magdalene Laundries

November 09, 2010

The Irish government has directed the attorney general to investigate the treatment of women at the “Magdalene Laundries,” after a commission’s report called for a thorough legal investigation and for compensation of the women who suffered abuse and mistreatment at the institutions.

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) pointed out in its report that although the Magdalene Laundries were operated by Catholic religious orders, many troubled young women were assigned by courts to live and work in the institutions. Thus the state shares responsibility for the abuses, the IHRC said. Groups representing former residents of the Magdalene Laundries welcomed the IHRC report. Victims of abuse at the institutions have not received adequate compensation from either the religious orders or the courts, the groups said.

The IHRC report said that an investigation by the attorney general should yield more information about the practices of the Magdalene Laundries and the individuals responsible for misconduct. Inadequate records made it impossible for an independent commission to gain a full understanding, the report said. The Magdalene Laundries, which were set up to house young women with troubled backgrounds, were closed by the 1990s. Reports of widespread abuse at the institutions prompted an outcry in Ireland, prompting the government to recognize a serious problem in 2001.


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