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'Nobody will be left short': Magdalene Laundry redress to be extended to survivors blocked from compensation

Lump sum and pension payments will be made to the women affected.

Members of Magdalene Laundries welcomed to the Mansion House in June of this year.
Members of Magdalene Laundries welcomed to the Mansion House in June of this year.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

MAGDALENE LAUNDRY SURVIVORS blocked from receiving compensation because they were officially placed in “adjoining” facilities will be given pay-outs under new legislation which received government approval today.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan sought Cabinet approval for the priority drafting of a short technical Bill to make changes to the Magdalene Redress Scheme.

The Bill, which should not take long to draft, will ensure women who were originally blocked from receiving payments under the scheme will now be eligible.

Such payments were recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke in his report last year.

The minister said the legislation, which will have to go to the Justice Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny, should be fast-tracked due to the age, and in some cases frailty, of the women.

The changes to the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Act 2015 will ensure that certain women who were not able to get compensation will now receive payments. 

The original scheme applied to women who were admitted to and worked in Magdalene Institutions. This resulted in a number of women not being eligible to receive payments under the redress scheme.

Following a report on the scheme by the Ombudsman, a decision was taken to apply the scheme to women who worked in the Magdalene Institutions but also to the women who resided in certain adjoining institutions.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said while she welcomed the decision today, she was critical of the department’s “push back” against the report’s recommendations that the redress scheme be extended.

“At the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality earlier this year, Mr Peter Tyndall told members that, in his ten years as ombudsman, he had never reached a point where a Department had, prior to publication of a report, absolutely and categorically refused to engage in the process of accepting and implementing the recommendations made.

“While I welcome the belated decision to accept in full the recommendations made by the ombudsman, I am utterly disappointed at the amount of time it has taken to do so and, more to the point, so are the women involved,” she said.

The Taoiseach said today that he was struck by the Ombudsman’s evidence to the committee.

“He is a mild-mannered man, not given to condemnation, and when he criticises in a Government Department in the way he does, while many people criticise them daily, one wants to listen his criticisms because he is very measured and a very competent public servant. On foot of that appearance at the joint committee, I asked to meet him, with the Minister for Justice and Equality. We considered his report and have accepted it in full.

“That report recommended that we extend the Magdalene scheme to women who were not resident in Magdalene laundries but lived nearby, often in adjoining institutions, and were required to work, unpaid, in those laundries,” he said, adding:

We are currently paying compensation to those women. That is based on being paid for work that they were not paid for in the past. That is why there is a question about how many hours or days they worked. It is only there to make sure that we can maximise the amount of money paid to women who are making an application.
It is not there to try to restrict it in any way. We fully appreciate that, given the passage of time, it could be very difficult for anyone to remember how many hours they worked 30 or 40 years ago in some cases. That is not there to catch people out but to work out how many hours and days people worked in laundries for so we can calculate how much they are being compensated. I guarantee that nobody will be left short. We are trying to give people the payment they deserve.

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