Up to 200 women contacted the Department of Justice for information on the Magdalene redress scheme in the 24 hours after the Taoiseach made his groundbreaking apology to the women for the State’s role in their hurt.
Meanwhile, the four religious orders who ran the Laundries have refused to comment on Enda Kenny’s apology, or on how they intend to engage with Mr Justice John Quirke’s redress scheme. It is not yet known how much, if anything, they intend to contribute to the fund being established by the State.
It has also emerged that the Taoiseach met with Magdalene survivors still in the care of the nuns but living in nursing homes in the past fortnight.
This means that Mr Kenny met with Magdalene Survivors Together and the London Irish Women Survivors Support Group, but not with Justice for Magdalenes, who successfully brought the case outlining state involvement in the laundries to the United Nations Committee on Torture two years ago.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he would like to see survivors of the Bethany Home being extended the same treatment from the State as that given to the Magdalene survivors.
However, last night the Department of Justice said the High Court had found “90% of [Bethany Home’s] work was maternity cases”.
“The arrangements being made in respect of girls and women who worked in Magdalen Laundries without pay simply cannot be applied to the completely different circumstances applied to the many maternity and infants homes in the State and those resident in them as compared to the Magdalen Laundries,” said a department spokesperson.
They said the issues as regards the Bethany Home relate “primarily to health care and children”.
“The Government is conscious of these issues and the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch are looking at this matter,” said the spokesperson.
Former abuse victim and executive director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O’Gorman warned the Quirke scheme must be “open and transparent” and that the religious orders must be held accountable for establishing and running the Laundries.
“This next step must be acknowledged as reparation for State failures that is these women’s right, and not as some act of benevolence by this Government,” said Mr O’Gorman. “The religious need to play a role and be held to account for the laundries. Details of the negotiations should be made public. The time for secret, background negotiations is over,” he said.
He said the State has a “pure justice role” to play in dealing with the issue.
“Those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to account at an institutional level,” he said. “And they must also contribute significantly to the redress and reparations.”
In the Dáil, Mr Kenny said great consideration was being given to the best way to deal with the women. He said his meetings with survivors had impressed upon him their desire for a full State apology, but also the need for a swift, non-adversarial compensation plan.
“Not being adversarial, not being a gravy train for those who might assume so from a legalistic point of view — that’s a very strong wish and a very strong desire expressed by the women who were in the Magdalene laundries, and that’s what we want to try to achieve here,” he said
Mr Kenny said setting up a three-month review by Judge Quirke, which will recommend how to provide support and payments to the survivors, was the best way forward. He included the survivors of Dublin’s Stanhope Street Training Centre in his apology in the Dáil on Tuesday night.
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