'Documents of truth'?: the 2009 Ryan Report and 2013 McAleese Report

Simpson-Kilbane, Lucy
(2021) 'Documents of truth'?: the 2009 Ryan Report and 2013 McAleese Report. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Published in 2009, the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ryan Report) offered an extensive and detailed examination of twentieth-century institutional abuse, shedding light on the treatment of vulnerable and impoverished children in industrial schools, reformatories, and other predominantly church-operated institutions. Four years later, the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries (McAleese Report) examined Ireland’s church-run Magdalen laundries for unmarried mothers and other women who it was deemed had broken moral boundaries. The Ryan and McAleese Reports were contributory to and, indeed, symptomatic of a late-twentieth-century inquiry culture and sought to facilitate a process of recognition, reconciliation, and redress. This thesis presents a collective and comparative analysis of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) and the McAleese Committee, evaluating their mandate and aims, composition and powers, as well as their outcomes. Based on a close-reading of the Ryan and McAleese Reports and an examination of the response of survivors, the Catholic Church, academics, and journalists, this study identifies inaccuracies, omissions, and potential bias in the reports and questions whether the CICA and McAleese Committee consulted all available evidence and presented their findings effectively. Through a comparison of the survivor-driven CICA and the more time and cost-efficient administrative inquiry into state involvement with the Magdalen laundries, it is possible to identify a hierarchy of victimhood, reflecting the difficulty the Magdalen laundry survivors faced in gaining legitimate victim status. Beyond the report’s limited and, indeed, questionable statistical analysis, the McAleese Committee’s greatest failing was its inability to prioritise the statements presented by women who lived and worked in the Magdalen laundries. Consequently, while the CICA’s findings have been widely accepted, the McAleese Report’s narrative minimises the extent to which women were exploited and abused in the Magdalen laundries. Questions therefore arise regarding the accuracy of the McAleese Report and how far its publication contributed to wider efforts to come to terms with and learn from Ireland’s institutional history.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2021 14:08
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 23:04
DOI: 10.17638/03112721
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3112721