‘A document of truth?’ Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the McAleese Report
in Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries
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The McAleese Report was published in 2013 following an eighteen-month inquiry, representing the first attempt by the state to examine the country’s church-run Magdalen Laundries and to determine the role of the government and its agencies in their operation throughout the twentieth century. Despite focusing on state involvement, the inquiry offered a rare opportunity to gain insight into the experiences of the women who lived and laboured in the laundries, and to facilitate recognition, reconciliation, and redress. However, shortly after the publication of the report, survivor groups and journalists began to question the validity of the inquiry and the accuracy and reliability of its findings. Based on a close reading and drawing on survivor testimony, this study offers a critical analysis of the inquiry and Report. It evaluates the McAleese Committee’s mandate, aims, composition, and powers, its approach to obtaining and responding to evidence, and questions whether its Report was helpful in the healing process for the survivors and for Ireland. Identifying errors, omissions, and potential bias in the McAleese Report, this chapter demonstrates the importance of assessing and challenging the official narrative on the Magdalen Laundries as Ireland attempts to come to terms with its history of institutionalisation.

Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries

Commemoration, gender, and the postcolonial carceral state

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