No price given for orders’ contribution to Magdalene fund

The Government is refusing to say what contributions it will seek from religious orders for a fund being established for victims of the Magdalene laundries.

Four religious orders involved in the running of the laundries are due to meet with Justice Minister Alan Shatter and junior minister Kathleen Lynch, who said they would “discuss in greater detail how we can manage this between us”.

Ms Lynch said the question of what would be considered a fair contribution was “debatable” and she did not want to go into it at this early stage.

“The mistake that was made with the industrial schools was that the deal was done in advance of knowing what the final cost would be,” she told RTÉ radio. “That was a major flaw in that process. And we don’t intend to make those same mistakes again.”

The compensation costs for the industrial school redress scheme ran to over €1bn, but the Magdalene survivors have proposed a scheme amounting to about €100m.

The Government has asked Mr Justice John Quirke to establish “how best to support” the survivors of the laundries. He will set up a scheme that will take into account work undertaken in the laundries without pay, and advise on the nature and amount of payments to be made out of the fund.

The four congregations which were referred to in the Magdalene Report by Martin McAleese are the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; the Sisters of Charity, which had assets of €33m in 2009; the Sisters of Mercy, which has a portfolio of assets of €1.8bn; and the Good Shepherd Sisters which, in 2009, had €16.8m worth of financial assets.

Ms Lynch said the congregations would be contacted this week.

Asked if a cost would be put to them, she said: “I’m sure at some stage we will come to that point.”

However, she said the priority was to ensure their co-operation in providing access to records to Judge Quirke “for verification and to ensure that people who have applied in relation to the new scheme get what they are entitled to”. “We are going to meet the four congregations first and talk about what has happened up to this point, then discuss in greater detail how we can manage this between us.”

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