The Shame of Ireland
Friday, June 13, 2014
By Claire O'Sullivan
Irish Examiner Reporter
Survivors of Magdalene laundries will begin to receive enhanced pensions and weekly top-up payments from the Department of Social Protection in the coming week, as part of the redress package designed by Mr Justice John Quirke.
More than 400 women have already received €12.4m in lump sum payments in recognition of the years of unpaid labour they provided for the religious orders. Approximately 200 more are still awaiting offers of payment.
Their pensions will also be upgraded to the €230 contributory State pension if they are aged 66 or over. If they are aged under 66, they will receive payments of €100 per week until they reach 66. Payments, which will be introduced on a phased basis, will be backdated to August last year.
Legislation has not been put in place yet to give women enhanced medical cards similar to those available to women infected by Hepatitis C from infected blood products.
The four orders who ran the laundries — the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, Good Shepherd Sisters, and Sisters of Charity — all refused to contribute to the redress scheme.
Meanwhile, Stephen O’Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together has said the women were “shafted” by the Department of Justice’s failure to establish a commission of investigation to examine what happened in the laundries.
Mr O’Riordan is now calling for the Department to “establish the full facts around the laundries” and the “treatment endured” by the women through a statutory commission of investigation.
Last year, Mr O’Riordan said he did not believe a statutory inquiry “would be beneficial” as the members of his group, aged 60-97, believed “that everything that needs to be articulated has been articulated already”.
The State’s involvement in the laundries was investigated via an interdepartmental inquiry rather than by a full-blown commission with statutory powers to compel information from the religious orders. Its terms of reference did not include potential breach of human rights.
Earlier this week, Justice for Magdalenes Research, which for years had been calling for a statutory investigation into the laundries, asked that the laundries be included in the terms of reference of the mother-and-baby home investigation.
“The need is clear: There was huge traffic between mother-and-baby homes and Magdalene Laundries; the McAleese Committee did not retain records received from the religious orders responsible for operating the Magdalene Laundries; the McAleese Committee’s terms of reference did not allow it to investigate individual complaints of abuse or examine fully the religious orders’ financial records; and all religious orders responsible for the Magdalene Laundries have refused to apologise or provide compensation,” said JFMR’s Mari Steed.
“The independent investigation was a joke, the Quirke report was equally a joke and the whole redress process has just been too slow. We also have women who are being told to verify with the nuns, the dates that they were in laundries. They are being sent by the Department back to their abusers.
“ If the investigation had been statutory such documentation could have been compelled.”
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the Vatican to investigate the Magdalene Laundries so those responsible for the abuse suffered in the institutions can be prosecuted.
Last May, the UN Committee Against Torture, criticised the report by Martin McAleese as “incomplete” and lacking “many elements of a prompt, independent, and thorough investigation”.
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