Magdalene laundry survivors still waiting for medical benefits promised to them

Magdalene laundry survivors have still not received all of the medical benefits promised to them following the State apology seven years ago.
Magdalene laundry survivors still waiting for medical benefits promised to them
Fine Gael Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan
Fine Gael Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan

Magdalene laundry survivors have still not received all of the medical benefits promised to them following the State apology seven years ago.

That's according to the first report of the Dublin Honours Magdalenes events held two years ago which brought together more than 230 women who survived the Magdalene Laundries together for the first time.

Part of the event involved a listening exercise during which survivors insisted "repeatedly" that the Health Card, as recommended by Justice John Quirke and agreed to ‘in full’ by the Government, "was not what was delivered to them by Government under the Magdalen Restorative Justice Ex Gratia scheme".

The Quirke Report advised that the Irish State should provide health services equivalent to those provided under the HAA card, which was given in the 1990s to people who contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.

"Magdalene survivors accepted the terms and conditions of the scheme and signed away their right to sue the State on the promise of an enhanced health service.

"However, ultimately the benefits offered to them are essentially nothing more than the routine healthcare service offered to State medical cardholders, which most of them already have due to their low income or advanced age."

"A number of survivors living outside Ireland also expressed frustration at the State's failure to deliver healthcare benefits to women in the diaspora — indeed, some women did not know they were entitled to such a benefit in the first place," states the report.

Some of the survivors also said that the McAleese Report "did not accurately reflect their abusive experiences" in Magdalene Laundries.

There was a consensus among survivors on the importance of educational initiatives and, in particular, the education of school children as a way to remember the experiences of the women.

The women were not unanimous on whether there should be a distinct material memorial dedicated to the Magdalene women.

However, the vast majority of the participants "supported the creation of a prominent commemorative monument or space, or a commemorative day or event".

One of the organisers of the event, Dr Maeve O’Rourke, said the Government now needs to provide what was promised to the survivors and grant access to the archive of the McAleese Committee which is currently held by the Department of Taoiseach — it is closed to inspection and exempt from Freedom of Information.

Principal author of the report, Dr Katherine O'Donnell of Justice For Magdalenes, which organised the event, said justice minister Charlie Flanagan's commitment to the event was motivated by "a personal awareness of how Ireland’s architecture of containment was used in the twentieth century to deny dignity to the vulnerable among us".

Mr Flanagan said a copy of the report will now be sent to all women who received compensation from the Magdalene redress scheme and said that the two-day event was "all that had been hoped for and more”.

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