The Department of Justice has defended asking victims of the Magdalene laundries to sign waivers accepting “all the terms” of the a redress scheme which it has yet to fully legislate for.
Justice for Magdalenes Research has hit out at the “subterfuge” being employed by the Government in providing justice to victims of the laundries.
The group pointed out that the department is writing to women offering formal lump sum payments, while stating that all other aspects of the scheme remain subject to legislation or discussions with other Government departments.
Despite the fact that the full terms of the scheme are not finalised, women are requested to sign a waiver accepting “all the terms of the scheme” and waiving “any right of action against the State or any public or statutory body or agency” arising out of their time in a Magdalene laundry.
However, in a statement issued to the Irish Examiner, the department defended the waivers, stating they were recommended by Justice Quirke as a pre-condition of receiving benefits under the scheme. It also defended asking people to formally accept the terms of a scheme it has not yet finalised.
“All 12 recommendations of Judge Quirke are going to be implemented but priority is being given to processing applications and making lump sum payments. Even with this, of the 12 recommendations, nine have been or are being implemented, two require legislation which is under preparation, and the remaining recommendation is a longer-term issue which will be addressed after processing of applications has been completed.”
The department also said that if women wish to postpone a decision on the scheme until after legislation has been enacted, this could be facilitated.
However, JFM Research said the “opaqueness” of the scheme meant there were survivors who were unaware that they could postpone accepting their offers and were signing quickly in fear of missing out on the compensation they are entitled to.
“JFM Research is gravely concerned that information regarding the mechanics of the scheme is being ‘drip-fed’ into the public domain via the media, instead of a comprehensive survivor-friendly guide to the scheme. While the State may be eager to be seen to provide compensation to Magdalene survivors, members of government ought to take a moment to ensure it is happening in a manner that does not further injure those whom the scheme purports to benefit,” said a statement.
The group published a supplementary survivor guide to the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme in response to some survivors’ “confusion and distress in the manner in which the scheme is being rolled out”.
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