Raymond Hill has been working entirely pro bono with an Irish non-profit volunteer organisation, “Justice for Magdalenes” (JFM) to promote equality and advocate for justice and support for the women formerly incarcerated in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries.
Thousands of women and girls were imprisoned in ten Laundries operated by four religious orders from Irish independence in 1922 until the closure of the last Laundry in 1996. The reasons why they were sent there varied – including unmarried pregnancy, male sexual abuse, disability and petty crime. In virtually every case, the women and girls were imprisoned without court sanction and without any certain date of release – many stayed for life and were buried in the Laundry grounds. Those who escaped were likely to be returned to the Laundries by members of An Garda Síochána (Irish police force). While imprisoned, the girls and women worked in the nuns’ commercial laundries for no pay. For those who left, even today their state pensions fail to reflect those years of unpaid work.
Raymond has been working with JFM to collect evidence of Irish State involvement in the Laundries for submission to an Irish inter-departmental committee of inquiry headed by Senator Martin McAleese. On 24 May, the submissions he drafted with Professor James Smith of Boston College, Massachusetts, were presented to every member of both Houses of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament). This was reported in the Irish Times on 25 May . On 28 May, a further submission which Raymond drafted with Professor Smith and Ms Maeve O’Rourke was presented to the United Nations Committee on Torture.