The Ombudsman has been criticised for its “bizarre” reasoning in refusing to uphold appeals from former residents of An Grianán seeking access to the Magdalene redress scheme.
The decision, granted on June 2, came on the same day the Irish Examiner revealed that evidence that An Grianán training centre and High Park Magdalene Laundry were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012.
Former residents of An Grianán, which was excluded fromthe McAleese inquiry, were denied access to thescheme as it was not considered a Magdalene laundry. It was on the same site as High Park Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra, Dublin. It was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board Scheme.
However, some former residents said they were not aware that this was the case and appealed their exclusion from the Magdalene scheme to theOmbudsman.
The Ombudsman has dismissed the appeals on the grounds that, although former residents of An Grianán worked in High Park Laundry, they were not directly admitted to it. The Magdalene redress scheme states women who “were admitted to and worked in one of the 12 institutions” could access it.
In the ruling issued to Karen Busher, the Ombudsman acknowledged that she had worked in High Park Laundry, but as she was not directly admitted there, the decision not to allow her access to the redress scheme was the correct one.
“While the fact that you worked in the laundry attached to St Mary’s Refuge is not in dispute, I do not see anywhere in the file where there is any dispute regarding the fact that you were admitted to An Grianán and not St Mary’s Refuge.
“Therefore, as you were not admitted to one of the 12 listed institutions, I do not see a basis for concluding that there was maladministration in the team’s decision not to approve your application on the basis that you did not qualify for funding under the Scheme,” he said.
Solicitor Wendy Lyon of KOD Lyons — which is representing a number of former An Grianán residents including Ms Busher — said the ruling was “bizarre”.
“It’s disappointing and actually rather bizarre the way he is pinning everything on the women meeting a particular definition of “admitted to” which is not even set out in the legislation.”
“The HSE memo clearly demonstrates that the women in An Grianán were effectively admitted to the laundries in any reasonable sense of the term. It’s fundamentally unjust that they are losing out because of the particular administrative formalities by which they were admitted: via An Grianán rather than via the laundry directly,” she said.
Claire McGettrick of Justice For Magdalenes Research said the ruling was “deeply disappointing”.
“Essentially, the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice are penalising girls admitted to An Grianán for the fact that they were forced to work in the adjacent Magdalene Laundry when they should have been receiving an education instead.”
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