Initial reaction to Martin McAleese's inquiry seems to be that the report is not as damning as had been anticipated. Ursulla Halligan for TV3 and Nick Heigham for the BBC have both just made reports to that effect. The Indo:
Report: Nuns 'did their best' in the laundries - National News - Independent.ieNUNS who ran the Magdalene laundries were given a sympathetic hearing as the inquiry team noted their profound hurt over the years of public debate.
"Their position is that they responded in practical ways as best they could, in keeping with the charism of their congregations, to the fraught situations of the sometimes marginalised girls and women sent to them, by providing them with shelter, board and work," the report said.
It went on to find that a play, Eclipsed by Patricia Burke-Brogan, about life in a laundry, and the dramatic film, The Magdalene Sisters, were fictionalised accounts and not a narrative.
"What we thought of the Magdalene laundries, it may be that was not true," said a source close to the inquiry.
Overall the report found that people's perception of living conditions in the laundries tended to be worse than the reality.
It conceded that, while conditions were harsh at times, and cold and monastic, routine shaving of women's heads did not take place.
From the report itself:
Report here (PDF Warning): http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Execut...%20Summary.pdfDuration of stay (cumulative percentages)
Less than 3 months 35.6%
Less than 6 months 47.4%
Less than 1 year 61.0%
Less than 18 months 68.0%
Less than 2 years 73.2%
Less than 3 years 79.0%
Less than 5 years 85.6%
Less than 10 years 92.3%
Median duration of stay 27.6 weeks (approximately 7 months)
Whether this early consensus sticks in the coming days, we'll see. And I have not yet heard a comprehensive commentary on State culpability. We know the numbers (26% sent to laundries by the State), but not the full significance in legal terms yet.
It's also noteworthy that the person in charge, Martin McAleese, seems to be so well regarded that there is no question about the integrity of the report. He deserves a lot of credit.