The groups were commenting on the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill 2014 introduced by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last month to bring in the promised healthcare support package for Magdalene survivors.
At a joint press conference in Dublin, Justice For Magdalene Research (JFMR), the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Amnesty International (Ireland) all said the Government package was well short of what was recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke.
Speaking almost two years after Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s emotional apology to Magdalene survivors, lawyer and JFMR member Maeve O’Rourke said the legislation did not meet Justice Quirke’s recommendations on healthcare for survivors.
“It is an obvious and unacceptable paring back of what the government promised as part of the women’s redress package. Judge Quirke could not have been clearer in recommending that each woman should receive a card entitling her to the full range of health services provided to state-infected Hepatitis-C survivors under the HAA (Health Amendment Act) card scheme. Instead, the Bill promises little more than the regular medical card, which most of the women already have,” she said.
The Quirke report found that 91% of Magdalene survivors already have a medical/GP visit card.
Dr Katherine O’Donnell of JFMR also claimed that the waivers the women signed promising not to sue the State in return for redress are on “shaky ground”, as the legislation is “in clear breach of the women’s legitimate expectations”.
The group also said that Justice Quirke’s recommendation to extend the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009 to Magdalene women who lack full capacity so that applications to the redress scheme can be made on their behalf and their assets can be managed by a court-appointed representative in their best interests, was ignored “without explanation”.
The groups also claimed that the Government was refusing to back-date pension entitlements, despite Justice Quirke’s recommendation that survivors be treated as if they had made full pension contributions.
Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International (Ireland) said it was “shocking” that the Government continued to claim that the McAleese inquiry was a comprehensive investigation.
“We remind the Government that women and girls in these institutions experienced a range of human rights abuses including, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary deprivation of liberty and forced labour. We call on the Government to live up to its obligations in the Quirke Scheme,” he said.
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the women will receive an enhanced medical card under the scheme and that legislation would be introduced in the first half of this year to assist women with reduced capacity. It said top up pension type payments were being made to survivors on a phased basis.