Department of Justice accepts women did work in laundry

The Department of Justice has said it now accepts that “on the balance of probabilities”, 14 women with whom it was in dispute did work in the High Park Magdalene Laundry post-1980.

The Irish Examiner first reported in February that the women, who were in the An Grianán training centre post-1980 and worked in the attached High Park Magdalene laundry in Dublin, had yet to receive an offer of redress from the department — despite being accepted to the newly widened scheme.

The Restorative Justice Unit (RJU) in the Department of Justice, which administers the redress scheme, had told the women the reason for the delay was that the order which ran the institution — the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge — had stated that it stopped sending girls from An Grianán to work in the main laundry in 1980.

The legal team for nine of the women had requested information on the evidence given by the order to the RJU to support this claim from the department on three separate occasions but was refused.

These women also wrote directly to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan asking that he personally intervene and instruct officials in the RJU to provide them with redress. They pointed out that the order’s claim that women did not work in An Grianán after 1980 was “incorrect”.

“This information, the details of which your officials have consistently refused to share with us, is incorrect,” stated the letter.

“We know because we were there.”

Human rights lawyer Colin Smith pointed out that the High Court accepted in 2017 that children worked at High Park into the 1980s and said the delay in granting redress was “obscene”.

The women had learned that a potential reason for the 1980 cut-off point is a claim that a separate laundry was constructed at An Grianán that year and that no girls were sent to work in the main laundry as a result.

However, the Irish Examiner obtained documents showing this laundry was constructed “in the early months of 1984” at a cost of £17,001.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said that, after interviews with four of the affected women, it accepted women who were in An Grianán post-1980 were likely to have also worked in the laundry. It said the order has not changed its position on the matter.

Two of the women have now received offers while the other two women will receive them “shortly”.

The department said: “Arising from the interviews with those applicants who agreed to participate in the interview process, the department has been enabled to come to a general conclusion that, on the balance of probabilities, certain residents of An Grianán were likely to have worked in the laundry of St Mary’s Magdalen Institution after mid-1980. Therefore, the department will assess these remaining cases on that basis and will be in communication with the women concerned, through their solicitor, in the next fortnight.”

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