Cabinet criticises orders’ refusal to aid Magdalene fund

The Cabinet has criticised a refusal by religious orders to pay into a compensation fund for Magdalene Laundry survivors.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was “disappointed” that the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity, and the Good Shepherd Sisters would not add to a fund.

It is estimated a fund for survivors could be between €35m and €58m.

The Government has already agreed that a fund be set up and had previously said it expected the orders to contribute.

The orders have agreed to co-operate with paperwork on cases being built by survivors and say they are caring for 100 survivors.

“Regrettably, all four religious congregations have informed us that they do not intend to make a financial contribution,” said Mr Shatter. “I regard their response as very disappointing. It is my view that the congregations have a moral obligation to make a reasonable contribution to the fund required under the scheme and that view is shared by my cabinet colleagues.

“It is a view I believe that will be shared by a majority of people outside this House.

“I hope that all four congregations will further reflect on the response we have received from them and will again consider making a contribution to the fund and reducing the burden imposed on taxpayers throughout the State.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the orders’ refusal was “unacceptable”. “The bottom line is these four religious orders, and the State, were responsible for the effective wrongful incarceration of girls and women who were forced to work for no pay within a brutal regime.”

Mr Shatter has asked the orders to again consider their position.

A Government spokesman said the issue of suing the orders was “not being considered”.

Sally Mulready of the of the Irish Women Survivors’ Network, which represents some Magdalene survivors in Britain, says she is disappointed at the decision.

“I think it sends the wrong message out to the women and about how much value they place on their worth and their experiences in the Laundries. So I think it is disappointing for them. They had always hoped that not only would they contribute but that they would want to contribute,” she said.

“We have to keep the door open and try and keep a dialogue open with the congregations to see how best we can ensure that they can contribute to the process.

“They have indicated that they will follow a number of recommendations in the Quirke Report,” she said.

Steven O’Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together said it was “outrageous” that the religious orders have refused to contribute financially to the compensation scheme.

“It is absolutely mind boggling that the State and the Government, our elected leaders, can’t go after the orders for this, to seize their assets or strip them of their charitable status. This is a human rights issue, after all. It says that we are, as a society, going to stand back and let these women be forgotten and disrespected by not pursuing the orders to hold them to account and help pay for this scheme,” he said.


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