I announced yesterday the publication of the final report of the interdepartmental committee, independently chaired by former Senator, Dr. Martin McAleese, to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen laundries. The report is extensive and detailed and, as has been stated in the House yesterday and today, runs to over 1,100 pages spanning the decades from 1922 onwards.
I thank Dr. McAleese for chairing the committee. In producing such a comprehensive report, it is fair to say that he brought integrity and independence to the work which was instrumental in having the full co-operation of all the agencies involved, the religious congregations, and the women affected.
I thank the many women who were able to tell their stories of what being in a Magdalen laundry meant for them, and the effects this had on their lives. I would also like to thank the religious congregations who gave their full co-operation and made their records available to the committee, and the many representative and advocacy groups who assisted the committee in every way possible. Finally, I thank the members of the committee for their work.
The report tells a complex story, spanning the decades from the establishment of the State onwards. We now know that approximately 10,000 women entered Magdalen laundries since 1922, through a whole range of different routes. These included State referrals as well as placements of women by many others, including significant numbers by their own families. We now also know that just over 60% of these women spent one year or less in the laundries and 35% spent three months or less there.
Much of the information in the report has never previously been made public. Among other elements, it records the stories of women entering the laundries over the decades and documents some past practices which had been long since forgotten. In this way, the report gives an extraordinary insight not only into the operation of the Magdalen laundries, but also into the social realities of past times.
I hope that publication of the report will be of comfort to the women directly concerned. I appreciate that many women have lived their lives under a cloud because of the stigma that has attached to their residence in the Magdalen laundries, irrespective of the circumstances which resulted in their admission and regardless of how much time they spent there. This stigma was undeserved and its removal is long overdue.
The committee's report clearly illustrates that the stigma derives from misconceptions relating to how women came to be in the laundries. The report also details that the laundries were cold and harsh places. I regret it was not until July 2011 that action was initiated on behalf of the State to undertake a comprehensive examination of the circumstances that applied in the laundries and the impact they had on many of the women who resided there. I am sorry the State did not do more and the Government recognises that the women alive today who are still affected by their time in the laundries deserve the best supports that the State can provide.
The report includes a significant amount of new information and it is important that time is given for it to be reflected on and for former residents of the laundries and others to give a considered response. As the Deputy knows, it is intended there will be a debate in the Dáil on the report in two weeks' time and, pending that debate, the report will be given full consideration by members of Cabinet who received it yesterday and who were briefed on its contents by Dr. McAleese.