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'To refuse them was a mistake': Redress plans for some women excluded from Magdalene scheme

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has welcomed the government’s acceptance of his recommendations for redress for survivors.

File photo. Former Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin.
File photo. Former Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin.
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS set to act on proposals by the State Ombudsman to include more women under its Magdalene Laundry redress scheme.

In a report last November, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall was sharply critical of the government’s scheme for Magdalene survivors for excluding some applicants.

Many of those women had their applications for redress denied by the Department of Justice as they were not officially recorded as having been resident in the 12 institutions covered by the scheme.

Despite initial objections from the Department to Tyndall’s investigation into 27 specific cases, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said yesterday that he had briefed Cabinet on plans to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Tyndall said that to not include these women in the redress scheme in the first place “was a mistake”.

“There was a particular group of women who were excluded who worked in the laundries but were deemed not to have been admitted to the laundries,” he said.

We felt the narrowing interpretation of the scheme was wrong. These woman should have been admitted. They had never been compensated for that work. They lived on the grounds of the same convent, ate the same food, under the same nuns.

The Ombudsman said that both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Flanagan were considerate of his proposals in a recent meeting.

Tyndall said: “It’s fair to say they were receptive. It was a very constructive meeting. The detail we discussed was how to do things rather than whether [to do them].”

He also highlighted cases of women that do not have the capacity to sign the appropriate documentation to secure redress, and suggested that they become wards of the court in order to secure what they are entitled to. “It’s not ideal, but it’s the only way of doing it,” he said.

Taking action

Announcing plans to act on the Ombudsman’s recommendations, Minister Flanagan said that senior counsel Mary O’Toole would be appointed to review cases where the length of time spent is in dispute.

He also said that the counsel would provide assistance to applicants who lack the capacity to accept the award.

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The case of women who weren’t officially recorded as having been “admitted to” a centre will also have their cases explored, by a group to be established in the coming days.

Tyndall added that getting the redress will make a huge difference to the women who’ve been excluded this far.

“It’s not just the financial compensation, it’s the enhanced income,” he said. “Pensions bumped up, access to free healthcare. We think the matter can be resolved in a small matter of months.

There’s no point in starting from scratch or reinventing the wheel with this one. We understand it to be the review we called for in our recommendation, to establish precisely how many women are out there and how they can be offered redress.

Since the Magdalene redress scheme was launched in 2013, 691 applicants have received a total of €25.9 million. In addition, qualifying applicants have had their pensions ‘topped up’ and an enhanced medical card from the HSE.

With reporting from Cianan Brennan

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Sean Murray

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