Department of Justice offers redress to women involved in dispute

The Department of Justice has begun making offers of redress to some 14 women with whom it had been in dispute over whether they worked 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 not received offers 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 in the matter to ensure that redress was granted.

However, last week the Department 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.

It is understood that a number of the women affected received offers last week, while at least a further three offers were issued this week.

One of the women affected, Mary Lawlor entered An Grianán in 1975 at just 10 years old and remained there until 1982. She said she was "delighted" that the Department had "seen sense" on the matter and expects to receive her own redress offer in the coming days.

She said:

"At least this gives the girls involved a chance to get on with their lives and maybe get some peace. This will never leave us, having to engage solicitors, gather documents and fight and beg for something that we were entitled to. For myself, I feel I can have a bit of self-respect and dignity back."

Wendy Lyon, solicitor at Abbey Law said the Department of Justice should apologise to the women involved for the delay in granting redress.

"I'd like to see these offers accompanied by an apology for putting these women through so much difficulty, over what any reasonable person can see they were always entitled to," she said.

Speaking in February, human rights lawyer Colin Smith pointed out that the High Court accepted in 2017 that children worked at High Park into the 1980s. He said it was "obscene that in 2019, women clearly entitled to redress as a matter of law should have to appear in person to beg for it from Department of Justice officials".

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