The Government has ruled out legal action to force religious orders to contribute to a compensation fund for survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said their charitable status could not be removed and that he wanted the orders linked to the laundries to consider voluntarily paying into the fund.
Any compensation would not be possible without the help of the orders when it came to documenting the time survivors had spent at institutions, he told the Dáil.
But Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Government needed to pursue the orders and force them to pay into a redress scheme.
Mr Kenny said: “We cannot do the scheme without the help of the religious orders because they have all the records about who worked, who attended and who lived in the laundries.
“I ask them to reflect on the question of a monetary contribution. I cannot force them to do that. I cannot take away the charitable status as some people have called for.”
The fund could amount to €58m. The orders have told the Government they are still directly caring for up to 100 survivors but have made no statement to date on the refusal to pay into the redress scheme.
Mr Adams asked Mr Kenny to publish letters from the orders that the Government had received.
He added: “I call on the Taoiseach to make personal contact with them and to demand that they fulfil their duties to the small number of survivors, who, as the Taoiseach has said, are quite elderly and infirm.”
Magdalene Survivors Together wants the Government to remove the orders’ charitable status and to stop State funding to the groups.
The orders concerned are the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Religious Sisters of Charity.
However, Mr Kenny said: “I am not going down the route of legal action in a confrontational manner with the religious orders.”
He also said a decision on a redress scheme for the Bethany Homes survivors will be made next week.
Deputy Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the move. She said: “Bethany Home was not simply a mother and baby home. It was a children’s home, which shared all the brutal characteristics of the industrial schools and the Magdalene Laundries.”
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