Questions surround a section of the McAleese Report which states it asked the Ryan Commission to contact seven women mentioned in the Ryan Report who were in Magdalene Laundries.
Chapter 19 of the McAleese Report outlines how it asked the Ryan Commission to write to the women it spoke to and inform them of the McAleese committee and its work.
This was done as it was not possible for the Ryan Commission (CICA) to clarify to the McAleese committee what sections of the chapter referred to Magdalene Laundries, rather than other institutions because of legal issues.
“As a second step, the Committee requested the CICA Secretariat to write to any women who had complained to it regarding a Magdalen Laundry informing them of the existence of the Committee and providing contact details should they wish to make contact,” states the McAleese Report.
However, minutes of a meeting of the McAleese Committee on June 26, 2012, obtained under Freedom of Information, which deal directly with its interaction with the Ryan Commission, completely contradict this claim.
“The possibility was discussed of the secretariat of the Commission and/or Redress Board to contact those women to inform of the existence of the Committee and to provide the questionnaire for persons wishing to submit their stories to assist the Committee in fulfilling its mandate.”
“It was agreed that this might present a number of difficulties, in particular in relation to privacy issues. In light of the significant publicity which the Committee’s work had generated, it was considered unlikely that these women would not be aware of the Committee’s work.
“It was agreed that the Commission and the Board would not be requested to contact those women,” state the minutes.
The McAleese report ultimately concluded that it could not determine if any of the women’s experiences cited in the Ryan Report actually related to the 10 Magdalene Laundries within its scope.
The Irish Examiner requested clarification on the issue from the Ryan Commission and to the Department of Justice, which set up the McAleese Committee.
In a statement, the Ryan Commission said it could not respond to the request as the communications of the commission were “absolutely privileged under Section 17 of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said a clarification could not be provided at the present time as the person dealing with queries concerning the McAleese Report was on leave.
In a follow up response, the Department said the reference in the minutes was “the initial position taken but was subsequently changed”. However, this is not noted anywhere else in the minutes, nor was proof of this change of position offered in documentary form.
So clear as mud then…