Magdalene scheme extended to wrongfully excluded women

Magdalene scheme extended wrongfully excluded women
Ombudsman Peter Tyndall. Photo: Sam Boal/

More than 50 women who worked in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries but were wrongly refused compensation will become eligible for payments of about €37,000 (£32,428) each.

It follows the announcement last week-end by Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan that the country’s redress scheme will be extended to include 14 more institutions that shared premises and ownership with the laundries.

It comes more than five years after than Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s promise to right the wrongs that had been done to the women and children in the laundries and related institutions.

The Irish government introduced the Magdalene Restorative Justice Ex Gratia Scheme in 2013 since when some 692 applicants have received a total of over €26m (£22.7m) in lump-sum payments.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee heard in March that seven laundry survivors had died without receiving a penny of the redress they were granted in 2013. At least 106 women have had their applications rejected for various reasons since the scheme was started.

Mr Flanagan expanded the so called Magdalene restorative justice scheme following a highly critical report last November by the ombudsman Peter Tyndall in which he said it was simply impossible to understand why younger women had been excluded from the scheme.

The extension of the Magdalen Restorative Justice Scheme beyond the original 12 laundries to women resident in adjoining institutions came as up to 430 women arrived in Dublin for a two-day event in honour of the Magdalene Laundries women, the sixth annual Flowers for Magdalene event organised by the Dublin Honours Magdalene Group at Mansion House, Áras an Uachtarán, and Citywest.

Among the reasons given were that the operators of the institutions had registered them as being resident in industrial schools or training centres and not in the 12 laundries that were identified. The additional 14 institutions shared premises and ownership with the 12 qualifying laundries and, in many cases, were sections of those laundries. The institutions were run by the Good Shepherd Sisters; the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; the Sisters of Mercy; and the Religious Sisters of Charity.

“Unfortunately, a scheme intended to bring healing and reconciliation has, for some, served instead to cause further distress. This needs to be put right,” wrote Tyndall in his report, entitled Opportunity Lost.

Since 2013, 692 applicants have been paid just over €26m in lump sum payments.

Mr Flanagan said a general payment would now be made to the women for the entire period of their residency. They will receive a separate work payment for working in the laundries, enhanced medical cards and top-up pension payments.

In his report last November Ireland’s Ombudsman Peter Tyndall sharply criticised the Irish government’s scheme for Magdalene survivors for excluding some applicants.

The Irish Department of Justice originally objected to Mr Tyndall’s investigation into 27 specific, yet representative, cases but was eventually overruled by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after Mr Tyndall said the Department had been “disingenuous in the extreme” and responsible for “departmental stonewalling”.

Mr 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.

“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,” said the Ombudsman.

He said the Taoiseach and Justice Minister had responded positively and constructively to his criticisms: “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 said some of the women affected do not have the capacity to sign the appropriate documentation to secure redress and should be made wards of the court in order to secure their compensation and entitlement.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s the only way of doing it,” he said.

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