The Justice for Magdalenes campaign has welcomed a recommendation by a United Nations committee for a statutory inquiry into the Magdalene laundries.
The committee also says the former residents should get redress and that the perpetrators of abuse should be prosecuted and punished.
The recommendations by the UN Committee follow a hearing last month in Geneva into allegations by the Justice for Magdalenes Campaign that the State had been complicit in imprisoning some of the marginalised females held in laundries owned by nuns who forced them to work without pay and severely maltreated them.
In its concluding observations, published today, the committee agreed with the campaign's demand for an independent investigation.
It recommended that the State ‘prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences committed’.
Welcoming the recommendations, the group called on the Government to act immediately on them and issue a formal apology to all survivors of the Magdalene laundries.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the UN committee had acknowledged Ireland's commitment to engage with them in a constructive manner.
The statement said that the ‘committee's concluding observations cover a wide range of different areas, from prison conditions to the total prohibition of corporal punishment, the Magdalene Laundries, the follow-up to the Ryan Report and the processing of applications for refugee status.'
The Cabinet would examine the committee’s observations and recommendations, the statement said, and in due course communicate with the committee.
At the UN Committee's hearing last month, the Department of Justice said that the laundries were private institutions and that the limited facts available to it indicated that the vast majority had entered voluntarily or, if they were children, with the consent of their parents or guardians.
Secretary-General Seán Aylward said that when the laundries were flourishing, the State had none of the powers or responsibilities of inspection that were legislated for later on.
But Justice for Magdalenes said that the courts regularly referred women and girls to the laundries as an alternative to jail, and that many were transferred into them from industrial schools, which were the direct responsibility of the State.