Woman challenges Magdalene redress refusal

A woman who claims she was forced to work unpaid in a Magdalene laundry for 10 years has challenged the minister for justice’s decision excluding her from the State’s redress scheme for victims of those institutions.

The woman claims she was used as forced and unpaid labour from the age of eight to 18 at two laundries, in Waterford and Dublin, during the 1970s and early 1980s.

She had applied to be included in the redress scheme established in 2013 to compensate survivors of the Magdalene laundries but her application was turned down on the grounds that, at the relevant time, she was a resident of industrial schools and not the laundries themselves.

Michael Lynn, counsel for the woman, said the minister had, in her refusal, told the woman she should have sought compensation under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme. However, his client, because she lives abroad, did not hear about that scheme in time, and her application for inclusion in it was refused as being out of time.

In her proceedings against the minister for justice, the woman wants an order quashing the minister’s refusal to admit her to the laundries’ redress scheme.

In a sworn statement, the woman said she had worked at St Mary’s Laundry, Cork Rd, Waterford, and St Mary’s Refuge Magdalen Laundry, Grace Park Rd, Drumcondra, Dublin.

She said she was just two when she was taken from her family and does not know why she was taken away.

She was placed at St Dominic’s Industrial School for girls in Waterford, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and, from the age of eight, was forced to work at the nearby St Mary’s Laundry in Waterford, she said.

She worked there after school on Saturdays or on days when she refused to go to school, but was given a Saturday off to make her First Holy Communion.

She said that she was transferred to Dublin as a teenager and placed at An Grianán Institution in Drumcondra. She claims she also was compelled to work at St Mary’s Refuge Magdalene Laundry, which was in the same building as An Grianán, after school and on Saturdays. She also claims she was subject to sexual and physical abuse in an industrial school.

Mr Lynn argued the refusal to admit his client to the redress scheme “flies in the face of reason and common sense”.

He claimed the minister erred in law by adopting an interpretation of the scheme at variance with the plain and ordinary meaning of the words within it and the refusal violated his client’s right to justice, breached fair procedures, and was irrational and unreasonable. What happened to his client when she was in the institutions was “horrendous”.

The minister failed to take into account children placed at St Dominick’s Industrial School and An Grianán worked in the laundries, or a report by the HSE which stated An Grianán and St Mary’s in Drumcondra were not separate institutions but “one and the same”, he said.

Permission to bring the proceedings was granted, on an ex-parte basis by Ms Justice Deidre Murphy.

The case comes back before the court in March.

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