McAleese Report promised so much but delivered so little

The fallout from the McAleese Report is sure to continue, says Conall Ó Fátharta

A week that promised so much for the survivors of Magdalene Laundries ended up delivering little.

Despite the McAleese report finally rubber-stamping a fact that has been known for years — that the State was involved in all aspects of the Magdalene Laundries — no State apology has been forthcoming.

The Government and Taoiseach Enda Kenny parsed and prevaricated, clinging to the razor-thin argument that just 26% of women in the laundries were sent by the State.

The key point here is: Regardless of how women came to be there, the fact the State monitored, inspected, and had State contracts with the laundries make it responsible for all the women who worked for no pay in these institutions.

However, the more unsettling aspect of the McAleese report is the rewriting of a narrative that has long been accepted through testimony — that these were places where women suffered physical abuse. It is noteworthy that this was not the job of Martin McAleese.

What he presented in this regard is wildly at odds with what was established in the Ryan report, in more than 700 pages of survivor testimony presented to his committee — which is rapidly being treated as the historical narrative of what went on in these institutions.

As he gave no public briefing, it has not been possible to question Mr McAleese on these findings.

On Prime Time earlier this week, an angry Maeve O’Rourke, a human rights lawyer and member of the Justice for Magdalenes group, said Mr McAleese’s claim that little physical abuse occurred in the laundries was “an outrage”.

“It has been accepted for a long time that these were abusive institutions and the idea that they were not physically abusive — the thing that is coming out from this report — I think is an outrage. Martin McAleese did not refute that the women earned no money and that they were locked in,” she said.

“He spoke of the vast majority of women and girls never knowing when they would get out, if ever, and if they would ever see their families again. That was not refuted. If unpaid labour behind locked doors is not physical abuse, then I do not know what is.”

From the beginning, the attitude to the religious congregations is quite clear. The very first reference to the orders in the entire report is in the 12th paragraph, where Mr McAleese speaks of the “profound hurt” experienced by the Sisters in the way the laundries have been portrayed.

It is also worth noting that the orders themselves could have countered the allegations made against them in the past decade. They chose not to.

Meanwhile, the attitude to survivors from the start of the report speaks of the “confusion” they feel about that period of their lives.

Mr McAleese says most women said the “ill-treatment, physical punishment, and abuse that was prevalent in the industrial school system was not something they experienced in the Magdalene Laundries”, while the accounts of physical abuse are few and far between and very tame by comparison to testimony seen in the Ryan report or in the Justice for Magdalenes submission.

It is worth noting that a total of 118 women spoke to the committee. Of these, 58 are still in the care of the religious orders, indicating they have spent much of their lives institutionalised.

To supply a narrative outlining virtually no physical abuse, where half of the women interviewed remain in the care of the order, is hardly satisfactory.

Furthermore, unlike the Ryan report, the McAleese report made no public call for survivors to come forward and give testimony.

The Ryan report dedicates an entire chapter to abuse in Magdalene Laundries and is categoric in its opinion that physical abuse was routine.

More concerning is the suggestion that the committee discounted initial testimony of physical abuse from some women, as they said that under closer questioning it emerged that the women were “confusing” their time in industrial schools with time at the laundries.

Claire McGettrick of JFM outlines some concerns. “Initially, the committee didn’t even want to speak to women in person, but we fought for that. The women gave their testimony verbally and then we were given very little notice of a second meeting where we were to look at the format of the initial testimony.

“Instead, the women were brought in, one by one, for a meeting with the commission where they asked repeated questions. Their overall impression was that they were being checked to ensure that their memories were correct.

“The women came out of those meetings very quiet and subdued. None of them, none of us, had been expecting for them to be questioned like that.”

When you read the report, it is clear this was the case, as it confirms: “Subsequent meetings afforded the committee an opportunity to seek clarifications on areas of particular interest… Information provided by many of the women… included a clear distinction between some of the practices in industrial and reformatory schools and the Magdalene Laundries, in particular in relation to practices of physical punishment and abuse.”

Much of the comment has been on the final rubber-stamping of what was already well known: That the State was involved with the Magdalene Laundries. That much is now certain.

However, in recent days, survivors have expressed their outrage at Mr McAleese’s claim that they were not places where physical abuse was suffered.

It is likely that the fallout from this claim has some distance to run.


Dr Martin McAleese’s reputation ‘damaged by BBC’

The Department of Justice took serious issue with a BBC documentary on the Magdalene Laundries and accused it of damaging the reputation of Martin McAleese. You can read the 11 page complaint and response here (


The Department of Justice accused the BBC of damaging the reputation of Martin McAleese in an 11-page complaint about its “seriously flawed” documentary on the Magdalene laundries broadcast last summer.

The complaint, by assistant secretary, Jimmy Martin, and partially released under FoI, related to the Hidden Bodies, Hidden Secrets programme broadcast by the BBC in September last year.

The letter was written in December of last year, after a series of communications from Mr Martin to the Department of Justice press office, the minister for justice’s office and the BBC in relation to a specific allegation made in the broadcast. These were not released.

In the complaint, Mr Martin said the broadcast was “seriously flawed”, contained “a number of serious inaccuracies, as well as unclear and misleading statements” in relation to the McAleese report and “damaged the reputation of Dr Martin McAleese and others”.
The complaint accused the BBC of failing to put the “serious allegations” in the broadcast to either Dr McAleese or the Department of Justice “either directly or indirectly”.

The complaint details a lengthy list of concerns about the broadcast, including how the Magdalene survivors who spoke to the programme were selected — stating that there were “questions about the extent, if any, of fact-checking performed by the programme makers in relation to the contributors prior to broadcasting their stories”.

The concerns of the department in relation to the information supplied by the Magdalene survivors to the BBC have been redacted but the letter states “all this reinforces our contention that your programme was unfair, lacked impartiality, contained serious inaccuracies and demonstrated serious breaches of your guidelines”.

The complaint concludes with the request for the following list “as soon as possible”:

  • a series of appropriate corrections and apologies receiving similar prominence as the Hidden Bodies, Hidden Secrets programme and transmitted at the same times in the different time zones as that programme variously transmitted;
  • a similar correction and apology to be broadcast on BBC 2’s Newsnight;
  • the removal of the programme and associated article from BBC online and YouTube and the removal of all references to the programme and associated article from any other websites.

In a lengthy response in March, the BBC robustly defended the broadcast against each of the points raised by the department. It outlined how it had sought a response from Dr McAleese, the Department of Justice and the Department of An Taoiseach, before offering it the option to take the complaint to a different section within the BBC.

 Mr Martin responded on May 19 expressing disappointment at the rejection of the complaint and stated the department had “no confidence in further internal BBC appeals” and that “a further appeal to the BBC Trust would not serve any useful purpose”.

Shatter backtracks on collusion of State in laundries

The difference between what a politician says in opposition compared to what they say when a cabinet member.


Justice minister Alan Shatter has backtracked on the question of State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries, despite saying in opposition there was “irrefutable evidence” of such collusion.

Speaking in the Dáil last month, Mr Shatter appeared to row back on previous comments by stating State involvement in committing women to Magdalene Laundries had a “very complicated” background that did not have a “simple, straightforward explanation”.

However, speaking in the Dáil as justice spokesperson when in opposition in 2009, Mr Shatter stated there was “irrefutable evidence” within the department he now heads up of such State involvement.

“There is now irrefutable evidence available from the Department of Justice that this State and the courts colluded in sending young women to what were then known as the Magdalene asylums and they ended up in the Magdalene Laundries and they were treated appallingly. Some of them have never recovered from the manner in which they were treated and their lives have been permanently blighted,” he said.

Mr Shatter went on to say that the State was “directly complicit” in such “barbaric cruelty” through court records and files held by the Department of Justice.

However, speaking in the Dáil last month, Mr Shatter seemed to have changed his stance when asked about the possibility of an apology, redress and the restorative justice process for the women involved.


He stressed that none of the Magdalene survivors have made a complaint to the Garda or have commenced legal action against the State.

“Many of the women who ended up being resident in the laundries, as late teenagers or in their early 20s came through all sorts of different sources. Some indeed were left there by their families in circumstances where the State had no involvement of any description. So this is not a simple issue but we are doing our best to address it in a thorough, comprehensive and sensitive way, engaging with all sides who are concerned about it,” he said.

Mr Shatter acknowledged there were women who “feel” they were badly treated in the laundries and who “believe” their lives had been blighted by the experience but said the Government had followed the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Commission by the setting up of the interdepartmental committee to “clarify” any state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries.

Justice for Magdalenes spokesperson Claire McGettrick said the group was continuing to bring evidence of State interaction with the laundries to the attention of the interdepartmental committee.

“Most living survivors were incarcerated as young girls and it is, therefore, a very simple issue that the State had a duty of care with regard to vulnerable children carrying out forced labour in the laundries, regardless of how they came to be there. We reiterate our call on the Irish State to immediately issue a full apology to all Magdalene Laundry survivors,” she said.

Government ‘conscious of the danger’ of redress for Magdalene survivors before setting up McAleese inquiry

This is an interesting insight into just what the Government thought about the issue of the Magdalene laundries. It wouldn’t be the first time it had a less than positive opinion on documentaries on the subject

The Government was very worried about redress for Magdalene survivors before setting up the McAleese inquiry. In fact, then justice minister Alan Shatter felt an inter-departmental committee would “strengthen the position of the Government” in dealing with the issue. Mr Shatter also had a scathing opinion of the IHRC report on the laundries.


The Government was “conscious of the danger” of offering redress for Magdalene survivors just months before setting up the McAleese inquiry to investigate the issue.

The admission is made in a March 2011 Department of Justice draft memorandum for the Government, seeking permission to establish an inter-departmental committee to review a November 2010 Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) report on the Magdalene laundries.

Released under the Freedom of Information Act, it states that the then justice minister, Alan Shatter, was “conscious of the danger” of redress and of Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s view that proposals raised in an earlier memo “would very likely generate pressure for opening redress”.

Mr Shatter felt an inter-departmental committee, which he proposed be headed by his department, would “strengthen the position of the Government in dealing with the ongoing campaign”.

The committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalene laundries was formally established some three months later — headed by Martin McAleese.

The Department of Justice memo states categorically that, despite “various ‘documentaries’ and the report of the Irish Human Rights Commission”, the State had no case to answer in respect of the Magdalene Laundries.

It says government departments were concerned that “engaging with the religious orders might give the impression that the State was accepting responsibility in this area”. “The department is not aware of any facts that would give rise to State liability or responsibility for abuses in Magdalene Laundries… If there were any abuses in Magdalene Laundries, the individual abusers concerned and the religious orders who ran them are responsible.”

“The department is not aware of any facts that would give rise to State liability or responsibility for abuses in Magdalene Laundries… If there were any abuses in Magdalene Laundries, the individual abusers concerned and the religious orders who ran them are responsible.”

The memo also details Mr Shatter’s scathing opinion of the IHRC report on the laundries. It states the then justice minister had “serious reservations about the methodology, accuracy, and conclusions”.

“Of most concern is the lack of balance and any evidence to support the conclusions. The IHRC report is effectively based on allegations put forward by JFM (Justice for Magdalenes) and no effort was made to obtain clarification, information or observations from the State or (apparently) the religious orders on any of the issues raised.”

When in opposition, Mr Shatter stated there was “irrefutable evidence” within the Department of Justice that the State was “directly complicit” in “barbaric cruelty” that occurred in the Magdalene laundries.

Claire McGettrick of Justice For Magdalenes Research said that the memo highlighted the “cynical approach” taken by the Government when dealing with the Magdalene issue and expressed concern the upcoming mother and baby homes inquiry would be treated in the same manner.

“The Government must include the Magdalene laundries in the upcoming Commission of Investigation. The contents of this Government memorandum illustrate that openness and transparency are absolutely imperative in the investigation as the Government’s position is likely to be one of defensiveness rather than a desire to genuinely facilitate a truth-telling process,” she said.

Illegal adoptions: Exposing the pain of one of Ireland’s hidden scandals

WHEN well-known scandals, like that of the mother-and-baby homes or the Magdalene Laundries, finally hit the public consciousness — we often hear a common refrain: “Oh it was a different time.”Journalists and commentators get accused of imposing the morality and ethics of 21st century Ireland on an Ireland which bears no comparison.

Journalists and commentators get accused of imposing the morality and ethics of 21st century Ireland on an Ireland which bears no comparison.

As a result, we hear that the religious orders and nuns who ran these homes and institutions “did their best” operating within a very different set of moral boundaries. In short, people thought differently and the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children was an acceptable, if unfortunate, aspect of that society

However, a recent discovery made by the grandson of Dr Halliday Sutherland paints a picture of an Irish clergy deeply suspicious of anyone asking questions of how Magdalene Laundries and mother-and-baby homes operated.

The British physician and author’s book Irish Journey recounts a visit made by Dr Sutherland to the Magdalene Laundry in Galway and the Tuam mother-and-baby home 1955.

Dr Sutherland’s grandson Mark Sutherland wrote a blog post “The Suitcase in the Cellar” on where he recounted finding an unedited transcript of Irish Journey. What he found shows a clergy fully aware of how it’s treatment of women in its care may be viewed as unsatisfactory — even in 1955.

In order to visit the Magdalene Laundry at Galway, Sutherland needed the permission of the Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael John Browne.

It is clear that there was something to hide at the laundry as the author is only granted permission to visit the laundry on the proviso that everything he writes is submitted “for approval by the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy”. As a result, the account of his visit to the laundry in Irish Journey was censored.

What his grandson discovered last year in a suitcase were those sections which were removed. They paint an interesting picture to say the least.

Included in the correspondence in the suitcase is a letter from the mother superior of the laundry, Sr Fidelma, asking in no uncertain terms that specific sections of Dr Sutherland witnessed at the institution be removed from his manuscript before publication.

“If it makes no difference to you we would much prefer that you did not include this article for your book at all. Should it not be possible for you to comply with our wishes in this matter would you kindly exclude the paragraph marked on page 122, and that marked at the end of page 123. I do not remember hearing anyone say that a girl ever ‘howled’ to be readmitted. They do come along and ask sometimes. Would you also kindly omit the piece marked on page 124,” she wrote.

The sections removed were as follows:

Following a question from Dr Sutherland asking if some of the women resident in the Laundry were “backward” — the following reply was requested to be removed.

“Yes, some of them cannot read or write. A few are sent by Probation Officers into whose care the girl was placed by the Justice before she was charged with some criminal offence.”

The fact that a direct link between the State and the Magdalene Laundries was requested to be removed is instructive, particularly as countless governments stuck by the line that Magdalene Laundries were autonomous institutions, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Another section which was requested to be excised concerned an escape attempt by one of the inmates of the laundry:

Dr Sutherland: “Do they try to escape?”

Mother superior: “Last year a girl climbed a twenty foot drain pipe. At the top she lost her nerve and fell. She was fortunate. She only broke her pelvis. She won’t try it again.”

The mother superior also requested that a section concerning the physical abuse of women also be excluded from the final piece:

“For that kind of thing the girl gets six strokes of the cane, three on each hand.

A nun: “Sometimes on the legs.”

Dr Sutherland: “I suppose only the sister-in-charge may inflict corporal punishment.”

Nun: “Yes, and the only time I gave it I felt positively ill.”

This clearly points to physical abuse in the laundry as routine and as something that the order did not want being made public.

Well over half a century later, the McAleese Report was of the view Martin McAleese’s report found that “the ill treatment, physical punishment, and abuse that was prevalent in the industrial school system was not something they experienced in the Magdalene Laundries”.

Clearly this was not the view of the nuns running the Galway Magdalene Laundry.

Remarkably one entry that was allowed to remain tin the chapter by the order was a reference to food being removed from inmates if they misbehaved:

Dr Sutherland: “What about discipline?”

Mother superior: We give them a good scolding when they need it.”

Dr Sutherland: “And more serious offences?”

Mother superior: We stop their food”.

Dr Sutherland: “For how long?”

Mother superior: Only one meal and we know that the other girls feed them.”

Again, here is a nun acknowledging in the mid-1950s that women were starved if they did not toe the line. Such shocking treatment jars uncomfortably with the findings of the McAleese Report.

Another nun spoke of length of stay acknowledging that some women stayed “for life” and confirming that the women were not buried on the same ground as nuns but rather in “common burial ground”.

Dr Sutherland also recounted the conversation he had with Bishop of Galway Dr Michael John Browne when seeking permission to visit the laundry.

The bishop clearly took exception to the request and issued a veiled threat concerning anything negative he might write.

“Well, if you write anything wrong it will come back on you. Remember that.”

Following an extremely tetchy conversation, Bishop Browne denied there was anything to “hide” in the laundry but stressed it was his “duty to defend these nuns. I have done so in the past and shall do again.”

Before visiting the Galway Magdalene Laundry, Dr Sutherland visited the Tuam baby home — which in the past few weeks has made international headlines.

From the chapter, it is clear that the State was paying to keep women and children in the home.

“The nuns keep the child until the age of seven, when it is sent to an Industrial School. There were 51 confinements in 1954 and the nuns had now 120 children. For each child or Mother in the Home the County Council pays £1 per week. That is a pittance… In the garden at the back of the Home children were singing. I walked along the path and was mobbed by over a score of the younger children. They said nothing, but each struggled to shake my hand. Their hands were clean and cool,” Dr Sutherland wrote.

“Then I realised that to these children I was a potential adopter who might take some boy or girl away to a real home. It was pathetic. Finally I said — ‘Children, I’m not holding a reception’. They stopped struggling and looked at me.

“Then a nun told them to stand on the lawn and sing me a song in Irish. This they did very sweetly. At the Dog’s Home, Battersea, every dog barks at the visitor in the hope that they will be taken away.”

Labour TD Anne Ferris, who is herself adopted and also lost a daughter to adoption, first wrote about Dr Sutherland’s account last July but acknowledges that the recently discovered uncensored version is of huge significance.

“The standard refrain from the Church bodies in recent years has been that where abuses occurred they happened within autonomous institutions and so were isolated incidents outside the knowledge of senior members of religious orders or the Church hierarchy.”

“Dr Sutherland’s story shows that, not only was the Catholic Church hierarchy and the senior members of the religious orders aware of the abuse, but that even then the religious people in control sought to hide the extent of what was happening. This is not a case of a different code of practice for different times. In deleting passages from Dr Sutherland’s work, it seems quite clear that Sr Fidelma considered those particular abuses to warrant a level of secrecy,” she said.

Dr Sutherland’s preface to Irish Journey from 1958 contains an accusation about money that could be thrown at the Church in 2014.

“…all the critics have ignored my main criticism, which concerns the Irish secular clergy. In my opinion they have too much political power. They hold themselves aloof from their people, and are too fond of money.”

Some might say little has changed.


For my natural mother — a message

By Theresa Tinggal

I KNOW it must have been difficult for you to have to hand over your baby, but what choices did you have in the 1950s — none.

It must have been heartbreaking for you. I know, as I have two children of my own, grown up now, and two beautiful little granddaughters.

I can’t imagine the pain you may have felt to hand over your baby. I have been searching for you now for 12 years since I discovered I was adopted.

I just want to know what happened to you and that you went on to have a happy life.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that you did. I discovered 12 years ago that I was illegally adopted. “Illegally” meaning I was registered as the child of James and Kathleen Hiney and grew up thinking I was Theresa Hiney. The truth came out in May 2002 when my uncle revealed to me that they were not my parents.

My response was “well my birth certificate says I am”. He wasn’t able to tell me how it was done, only that he came back to Ireland from England on holiday one year, and I was an infant. My adoptive parents told him they had adopted me but not in the legal way. I was struck dumb when I heard, and thought it couldn’t be true and if it was, I must be the only one. However, that myth was soon shattered when I started searching and was astonished to discover that there are many, many more like myself, living in limbo without and identity.

This is my story: I was born on 9 June 1954. At two days old, I was handed over to my adoptive mother and taken to be baptised, accompanied by Nurse Doody. I was baptised as Theresa Hiney and six weeks later, again formally registered as Theresa Hiney, like I was their natural child.

What happened to my birth mother, I wonder? Separated from her baby and expected to carry on as though nothing happened. My heart still feels for her and all of the mothers in her situation. I grew up not knowing, but feeling very different from everyone in the family so in some respects I wasn’t surprised.

My search began in zest and I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Dublin looking through archives and searching for information. I was more than surprised when a file turned up from the HSE detailing my childhood from the age of two to 16 years old.

The health board had accidentally discovered about the illegal adoption and through a duty of care called to check on me on a monthly basis. Within the file detailing all those visits is the name and address of Nurse Doody, where I was handed over, and also the name of the social worker involved.

From that information, my birth mother could have been tracked down, but it was totally ignored. I was also given an index card with the name of foster child Margaret O’Grady and foster mother Kathleen Hiney. Is this my real or made-up name? The HSE can’t clarify whether it is or not due to the fact that people gave false names in the 50s.

In 2009, I set up a website for illegal adoptees and requested meetings with Frances Fitzgerald, then the children’s minister, which were always declined.

In 2012, Adopted Illegally Ireland held a protest in Dame St and also submitted a petition to Ms Fitzgerald’s office of 1,600 (including paper-based) signatures calling for access to records. The response was a polite thank you letter and the issue was never addressed.

Last October, I finally met with Ms Fitzgerald with Paul Redmond (Adoption Rights Now) and Susan Lohan (Adoption Rights Alliance). She instantly promised she would have her department attempt to gather all records, including Church-held files, and this would go to the heads of bill, which she also said would happen in 2011. The issue of an investigation was not mentioned and we ran out of time. She was meant to arrange another meeting which has never happened. I believe this serious issue should have received more consideration.

I don’t think it can be avoided any longer in view of the Tuam babies scandal. What has been discovered, although gruesome, has been seen as a breakthrough for those of us who have lobbied tirelessly over the years, but our requests have been ignored

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An Grianán and High Park Magdalene laundry ‘one and the same’

Evidence that An Grianán training centre and High Park Magdalene Laundry were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012 — yet An Grianán was excluded from the Magdalene redress scheme.

The revelation is contained in a memo sent from the then assistant director of the Children and Family Services, Phil Garland, to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs representative on the McAleese committee, Denis O’Sullivan, and the national director of the Children and Family Services at the HSE, Gordon Jeyes, on June 26, 2012, while the HSE was examining the laundries issue as part of the McAleese inquiry.

Mr Garland points out that the HSE had uncovered evidence that showed “quite categorically” that An Grianán and High Park Magdalene Laundry, which were on the same site in Drumcondra in Dublin, were “one and the same thing”.

He said evidence “describes the functions of the laundry and the training centres and states quite categorically that all of the girls underwent some degree of training in the laundries, in addition to other tasks of ‘housewifery’, that is cookery classes and domestic science”.

However, former residents of An Grianán, which was excluded from the scope of the McAleese inquiry, were denied access to the redress scheme as it was not considered a Magdalene laundry. Residents of High Park Magdalene Laundry were included in the scheme.

Two other institutions not previously considered laundries — St Mary’s Training Centres in Stanhope St, Dublin; and Summerhill — were included in the Magdalene redress scheme.

Draft minutes of a meeting held by the McAleese committee on the same day the HSE evidence was uncovered indicate that, as An Grianán was previously included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme, it would not be examined.

“Mr O’Sullivan raised the question of An Ghrianán [sic]. A significant volume of records had been uncovered in respect of that institution. There was discussion of that, with [Mary] McGarry noting its inclusion in Redress,” the minutes state, referring to a committee member.

“It was agreed that [committee adviser Nuala] Ní Mhuircheartaigh would secure the date of separation of An Ghrianán from the High Park campus — the committee would not be examining the institution after that point.”

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil last June An Grianán “served a different purpose” to the High Park laundry and there were “a number of different institutions on that site”.

The Government has repeatedly defended the exclusion of An Grianán from the Magdalene redress scheme by stating it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.

All women admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under the scheme. Those who did apply for redress under the Magdalene scheme were refused. It is understood a number of these women have appealed to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Claire McGettrick of Justice For Magdalenes Research said she was “shocked but not surprised” that the HSE revelations had been “completely ignored”.

“Given the fact that the Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) on the Magdalene Laundries was made aware of this evidence, it is inexplicable that the Government included Stanhope St and Summerhill Training Centre in the redress scheme, but chose to exclude An Grianán,” she said.

Ms McGettrick called on the Government to “make immediate arrangements” for An Grianán’s inclusion in the Magdalene scheme.

“We have consistently pointed out that the IDC investigation was not the prompt, thorough independent inquiry called for by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. This evidence strongly reinforces our contention and we reiterate our call for the Magdalene laundries (and all related institutions) to be included in the mother and baby home inquiry.”

In a statement, the Department of Justice reiterated its view that An Grianán “served a different purpose” to the High Park laundry and that, as a result, it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.

“We are aware that some of the girls may have done some hours in the laundry while resident in An Grianán, however, the different nature of An Grianán was recognised by its inclusion in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme. Girls who were admitted to An Grianán were entitled to full compensation for the entire duration of their stay under the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme.”

It says including residents of An Grianán in the Magdalene scheme would mean “those who were present there and have received compensation would receive double compensation for the same institution”.

Mother and Baby Homes: Revelations put State in uncomfortable position

The reaction of the Government to a shocking 2012 HSE report on Bessborough Mother and Baby Home has been instructive.

The revelations contained in the report have clearly put it in an uncomfortable position. Despite the shock displayed once the Tuam babies story went global — it is now clear that the Government had possession of a report showing a higher death rate in Bessborough almost two years earlier.

When the report, compiled as part of the HSE’s examination of the State’s role in the Magdalene Laundries as part of the McAleese inquiry, was made public by the Irish Examiner in June, along with equally disturbing material relating to Tuam Mother and Baby Home, the reaction of Government was to first deny it had ever seen it, then admit that, in fact, two departments had the report before finally labelling the entire study “conjecture”.

Even if you accept the “conjecture” line, it is impossible to get away from the finding on the number of infant deaths at Bessborough.

They are worth repeating. Between 1934 and 1953, Bessborough’s Registration of Deaths ledger records a “shocking” 478 children as having died at the institution.

To put this into context, this death rate is higher than that found by Catherine Corless in Tuam almost two years later – research which led directly to the State inquiry.

If the Government was so horrified by the death rate found in Tuam that it felt compelled to launch a State inquiry, then why was it not similarly moved in 2012?

When the Irish Examiner first revealed details of the HSE report, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said it had no knowledge of the report. The department has since altered this position, stating that not only did it have a copy of the report, but so did the Department of Health. In a series of responses to parliamentary questions, children’s minister Dr James Reilly has sought to defend the lack of action on the deaths – which are described as “wholly epidemic”, “shocking” and a “cause for serious consternation” – by stating the 2012 report’s findings are “a matter of conjecture”.

It is important to put this “conjecture” line to bed. Firstly, the 2012 HSE report is based on an examination of Bessborough’s own records spanning from 1922 to 1982. These were transferred to the HSE by the order that ran the home — the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary — in 2011. The 478 deaths recorded are taken directly from the order’s own death register. Based on the records, the author outlines a “narrative of patterns and practices of the Sacred Heart Order in the provision of adoption services at Bessboro”.

The records reveal an institution where women and babies were considered “little more than a commodity for trade amongst religious orders”, where “institutionalisation and human trafficking” took place among various religious orders and state-funded institutions and where women were provided with “little more than the basic care and provision afforded to that of any individual convicted of crimes against the State”.

The report is rock solid on the number of deaths listed, but says the question of whether or not all these children died but were instead “brokered” in clandestine adoption arrangements both at home and abroad was one which needed to be examined as part of a forensic investigation. It also says “further investigation is warranted” into the order’s accounting practices.

The records reveal clearly that the order requested payment from adoptive parents for the children they were adopting, while also requiring payment from the natural mothers for the care both they and their children received at the institution.

The author of the HSE report does state that the conclusions of the report were conjecture but, as always, context is everything.

The remark was in reference to establishing the interaction between the state, the order running Bessborough and the order operating the two Magdalene Laundries in Cork, and clearly indicates the Bessborough files reveal enough disturbing information to warrant a full forensic investigation.

“In order to conclusively verify interaction between the State and the Good Shepherd Sisters (who operated Magdalene Laundries in Sunday’s Well and Peacock Lane, Cork) and the Sacred Heart Order, it is imperative that full disclosure of any and all case files, records, institutional accounts and communications between the State and the religious orders be subject to forensic investigation. Until such time the conclusions of any such examination,” states the report.

None of the concerns raised in the Bessborough report are mentioned in the McAleese Report, nor does it appear any further investigation was done into the report’s findings.

The 2014 inter-departmental report on Mother and Baby Homes listed just 25 infant deaths at Bessborough, despite two Government departments being in possession of the order’s own figure of 478.

Dr Reilly has defended these omissions stating the findings were not “validated” and Mother and Baby Homes were outside the remit of the McAleese Committee. “As the issues raised in this draft report regarding death rates in Bessborough were outside the direct remit of the McAleese Committee, the HSE advised that these and other concerns would be examined separately by the HSE. At that time my department advised the HSE that any validated findings of concern from this separate process should be appropriately communicated by the HSE. My department is not aware of any subsequent report on this matter by the HSE,” he said.

This indicates that the department does not feel that a figure of 478 deaths taken directly from Bessborough’s Registration of Deaths transferred to the State by the order constitutes a “validated finding”.

While it is true that Mother and Baby Homes were outside the remit of the McAleese inquiry, that report points out that the committee uncovered material that was, “strictly speaking, outside its core remit” but chose to include it “in the public interest”.

This was because some of this material “may challenge some common perceptions” about Magdalene Laundries.