Women excluded from Magdalene laundries redress must provide ‘records’ of work

Women wrongly excluded from the Magdalene laundries redress scheme must provide “records” showing how long they worked in the institution before receiving any redress payments.

The requirement is contained in an addendum to the scheme published by the Department of Justice this week.

The scheme was widened following an Ombudsman report in November 2017, which found the department had wrongly refused some Magdalene laundry survivors access to redress payments.

These women worked in the laundries but had been refused access to the scheme because they had been “admitted” to a training centre or industrial school in the same building, attached to or located on the grounds.

The addendum to the scheme states that applications “must be accompanied” by “records from that institution and/or from the relevant Magdalen institution stating that you worked in the laundry and the period of time involved”.

Human rights lawyer Colin Smith said the department should accept that the presence by a child in the adjoining institution “necessarily entailed admission to and work in the laundry” and that it knows that, “for most of these institutions, there are no work records whatsoever”.

“I am anxious that the information women provide in their application forms should actually be considered evidence and that there should be no requirement for them to produce records for each and every piece of work they did.”

He said that where the department has other evidence in the form of statements or records from the orders about work in laundries, this needs to be put to the women for comment and “should not be accepted unquestioningly, as has previously been the case”.

Magdalene survivor Lyndsay Rehn said that she was “extremely disappointed and angered” at the requirement saying the department accepts the word of the religious orders as evidence but “not sworn affidavits by the women themselves”.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said the Restorative Justice Implementation Unit which is implementing the scheme would be able to seek records from the religious congregations.

The department said it understood all women “may not be able to be exact in relation to the details of how often or how long they worked in a laundry”, but that “some evidence of work in a laundry is required to qualify” for redress.

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