Magdalene Laundries Report
Members of this and the other House have raised issues concerning the recently issued report on the Magdalene laundries. I ask the Leader to try to obtain for me the answer to some very specific questions.
I am interested in the financial investigation into the various organisations and the laundries. I refer, in particular, to the evidence to support the assertion that the laundries were run at subsistence level, for a small profit or, in some cases, at a loss. From first principles, it does not seem credible that organisations which had State-funded contracts with other organisations that they owned were not actually generating a profit. Many of the religious orders which ran the laundries also ran the hospitals and had the gift of the contracts for laundry services for hospitals and other institutions, using taxpayers money and at the same time employing staff who were effectively working for free. It is possible that there were non-profit-generating work practices and that the overall ethos of the institutions was such that they were not trying to generate a profit, but, in the light of the fact that the work practices and contractual arrangements were so unusual, there is a need for a detailed forensic analysis of the financial statements included in the report. We do not get this in the report. If I am not misreading it, the only accountancy input comprises reports from the paid accountants who worked for the religious orders which were being investigated. We all know that accountants have an attorney-client relationship. They act for the client, not for any disinterested third party. Asking them to provide the detailed financial analysis of the state of the laundries’ finances is inadequate. Clarification is, therefore, required.
I am very troubled by the composition of the committee, the members of which were drawn entirely from the Civil Service. The committee’s remit was to investigate the involvement of the State in a matter reported at a level as high as the United Nations. It is a matter that caused the State to suffer a substantial reputational hit.
Will the Leader seek clarification from the Minister for Justice and Equality on the procedure involved in choosing the members of the committee? Was there any expert accounting forensic analysis available to the committee or did it simply accept what the orders’ accountants gave them at face value?