Launched last December, it will examine:
- if the application process operated in a clear, open, fair and consistent manner
- whether the department relied on irrelevant and/or incomplete information when deciding on a person’s eligibility under the scheme and the various practices of the department in sourcing, gathering and evaluating information on the institutions covered by the scheme.
The inquiry will cover issues raised in nine of the 30 complaints the Ombudsman has received from women who were excluded from the scheme but will also involve a wider investigation into the administration of the scheme generally.
However, the decision to launch the investigation came after a nine-month series of exchanges between the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice beginning in April of last year.
That month, senior investigator at the Office of the Ombudsman Tom Morgan wrote to assistant secretary at the Department of Justice Jimmy Martin stating its belief that former residents of the An Grianán training centre — which was on the grounds of the High Park Magdalene Laundry in Dublin — should be eligible for the Magdalene redress scheme. Mr Morgan said the department’s decision to refuse a Ms McG access to the scheme “should be reviewed”.
He stated this should be done as the department’s assertion that An Grianán was a “specific and separate” institution from High Park laundry that had been dealt with by the Residential Institutions Redress Board (RIRB) was “not supported by the evidence”.
“Having considered the facts of this case again, we cannot agree with this contention and do not believe it is supported by the evidence. From the information available, it appears that any division between An Grianán and St Mary’s laundry can only be considered quite artificial and did not reflect the reality of everyday life there,” stated Mr Morgan.
This was to spark a remarkable series of back and forth exchanges between the Ombudsman and the department on the issue, with the department vigorously contesting the claim.
By September, the Ombudsman was outlining a specific instance to the department where it was “unclear” why it used a specific date of discharge for a Ms R.
By November, Mr Martin had informed the Ombudsman it had sought the attorney general’s advice before stating the Ombudsman was acting outside its remit.
The following month Ombudsman Peter Tyndall wrote to the secretary general of the department to inform him that a formal investigation into the operation of the scheme was being launched.