29 January 2017
By Tom Collins
Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Justice Minister to address the Dáil to explain the manner in which the Magdalene Redress scheme is being administered.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire made the call following the revelation that the Department of Justice is to be probed by the Ombudsman after evidence suggesting maladministration surfaced.
This follows the adjournment of proceedings by two women suing over their exclusion from the scheme on Thursday.
“When announced, the Magdalene Redress Scheme had a number of serious failings and while redress was not unwelcome, it is not the same as compensation; a great deal of other actions should have been taken for justice to truly be delivered,” he said.
“However, one would have hoped, that implicit in the announcement of the scheme, was a recognition that a wrong had been inflicted on these women, many of whom are now elderly.
“In that context, it is regrettable to see women, who have already been through enough, dragged through the courts on the basis that despite working in a laundry and being resident in an industrial school connected to the laundry, that they were not eligible for the scheme.
“It is against this backdrop that the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has decided to open an investigation in to how the Department of Justice is administering the scheme.
“The Ombudsman has, I understand, received 30 complaints from applicants to the redress scheme and that, following its intervention, the department reversed its decision to refuse redress in four of the cases.
“These relate to unfair exclusion from the scheme and a very narrow application of the eligibility criteria. The shameful Magdalene Laundries saga continues to be a running sore on our country’s history, it is a wrong that must be acknowledged, it is not the time or the place to engage in penny pinching.
“Of particular concern is the fact that the Minister and the Department was aware of this investigation as early as December 20th but did not disclose it and is only now coming to light.
“The Minister needs to be more transparent and I call on her to make a statement to the Dáil on this issue, to explain what happened in these cases and how long any investigation is going to take.
“In the High Court this week the Minister’s legal team pleaded that the scheme was not established to compensate for alleged forced labour or loss of earnings in the laundries but as part of a scheme of healing and reconciliation.
“If healing and reconciliation is the focus then the Minister needs to explain why this undignified episode is now happening.”