Varadkar: Survivors will get redress ‘without delay’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that women wrongly excluded from the Magdalene Laundries redress scheme will be receive redress payments “without delay”.

Last November, the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, published a scathing a report into the scheme, which found that the Department of Justice had wrongly refused some Magdalene laundry survivors access to redress payments.

He made four recommendations, principle among these that the department fully reconsider, with a view to accepting, the applications of women who worked in one of the listed Magdalene Laundries but who were registered on the books of a training centre or industrial school in the same building attached to, or located on, the grounds of the laundry.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that this review would take place but made a commitment that all of these women would be included in the scheme and receive redress.

This will happen within three months.

“We accept the Ombudsman’s recommendation in that regard. There is a difference of opinion between the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice and Equality as to whether this would involve altering or changing the scheme, but I do not think that really matters. What is important is that the women affected receive redress and they will,” he said.

Central to the Ombudsman’s investigation and findings was evidence uncovered by the Irish Examiner in June 2015 — namely that evidence that An Grianán training centre and High Park Magdalene laundry in Drumcondra in Dublin were “one and the same thing” was uncovered by the HSE in 2012.

Women in An Grianán and other institutions like it had been refused redress, even though they worked in the laundries, because they had been admitted to that institution directly rather than through the laundry.

The view of the department — and which was publicly stated on numerous occasions by previous justice minister Frances Fitzgerald — was that An Grianán was a separate entity to the High Park laundry which served a different purpose.

The Government also repeatedly defended the exclusion of the training centre from the scheme by stating it was included in the Residential Institutions Redress Board scheme (RIRB).

The Ombudsman also called for a review of cases where there was a dispute over the length of time the a woman spent in a laundry.

Mr Varadkar said this review, to be carried out by barrister Mary O’Toole, would start “immediately” and be done “without unnecessary delay”.

Ms O’Toole will also advise the Government on women who lack capacity due to dementia or other reasons, including being wards of court and unable to accept an award because of a lack of capacity.

The Ombudsman’s report, published last November, following a year-long investigation and found the Department of Justice had wrongly refused some women access to redress by using an “overly narrow” interpretation of the scheme.

The investigation found the Department was overly reliant on evidence and, often the word, of the religious congregations “to the exclusion of other evidence”.

The personal testimony of survivors had been only considered “as a last resort”.

The report said it was “inexcusable” a number of women lacking capacity who had been accepted to the scheme in 2013 had yet to receive redress payments. These women had been “effectively forgotten” due to a delay in fully enacting the Decision-Making (Capacity) Act. Seven have since died.

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