Magdalene women seek minister’s help on redress

Madgalene laundry in Dublin.

A group of women in dispute with the Department of Justice over the dates they worked in Dublin’s High Park Magdalene laundry has written directly to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan asking him to intervene.

A total of 14 women who were in An Grianán training centre post-1980 and worked in the attached High Park Magdalene laundry in Dublin have yet to receive a provisional offer for redress from Mr Flanagan’s department.

A number of these women said they have been told by the Restorative Justice Unit (RJU) in the Department of Justice, which administers the redress scheme, that the reason for the delay is that the order that ran the institution — the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge — has stated that it stopped sending girls from An Grianán to work in the main laundry in 1980.

The legal team for the women have requested information on the evidence given by the order to the RJU to support this claim from the department on three separate occasions but have been refused it.

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 the women redress was “obscene”.

Now, nine of the 14 women have signed a letter to Mr Flanagan calling on him to intervene directly asking him to instruct officials in the RJU to provide them with redress. They point out that the claim by the order that women did not work in An Grianán after 1980 is “incorrect”.

“This information, the details of which your officials have consistently refused to share with us, is incorrect. We know because we were there,” states the letter

“We appreciate the efforts you have already made to ensure that we be admitted to the scheme. We now request that you direct your officials to provide us with the redress to which we are entitled.”

The women also outline that they all worked in the laundry as children post-1980.

“We confirm that we worked in the Magdalene laundry,” it states.

“Some of us worked after school on Wednesdays and Saturdays and every day during the summer; some of us worked other days; some of us worked every day throughout the year.”

“Some of us were sent to work in the Magdalene laundry when the Sisters wanted to punish us. We were not paid for the work that we did as children in the Magdalene laundry,” states the letter sent to Mr Flanagan.

The women have 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 has obtained documents showing this laundry was constructed “in the early months of 1984” at a cost of £17,001.

The department has said its goal is to process the applications “as quickly as possible” and that Mr Flanagan is “strongly committed” to ensuring those entitled to redress receive it.

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