THE STATE OMBUDSMAN has dismissed objections made by the Department of Justice to an investigation into 27 complaints made by women who worked in Magdalen Laundries regarding the Magdalene Restorative Justice scheme.
Many of those women had their applications for redress denied by the Department as they were not officially recorded as having been resident in the 12 institutions covered by the scheme.
Upon receiving a draft report in recent weeks, the Department responded to Ombudsman Peter Tyndall citing its unhappiness that the State officials who administered the scheme were not interviewed as part of the investigation.
Likewise, Secretary General of the Department Noel Waters suggested that the Ombudsman’s adverse findings were possibly due to “a fundamental misunderstanding of the scheme”.
Speaking at today’s launch of the final report, titled ‘Opportunity Lost’, Tyndall told TheJournal.ie that he considered such objections to be “disingenuous in the extreme” and an example of “departmental stonewalling”.
“The department was consulted extensively and at length over the course of this investigation,” he said.
However, Tyndall added that he was “hopeful” that the Department of Justice would act upon his recommendations that the women who were denied redress should have their applications reassessed with a view to approving them, in light of a statement from the Minister Charlie Flanagan this morning.
Earlier, Flanagan said that “full and careful consideration will now be given to all the recommendations in… (the) report”.
“These women have waited long enough for justice,” Tyndall said.
Recommendations made on foot of Ombudsman investigations are more often than not accepted and adopted by the State body in question.
In the report, published this morning, Tyndall criticised aspects of the Department of Justice’s administration of the Magdalen Restorative Justice scheme.
The report resulted from an investigation after 27 women, who had lived in convents and laundries, complained that they had been denied redress.
The Department of Justice had denied the womens’ applications saying that they had not lived in one of the 12 institutions covered by the scheme.
Many of the women in question were younger than the majority of the women in the Laundries, and as such, though spending much of their time in the laundry in the company of the same women, were registered as being officially resident elsewhere, in training facilities linked to the main laundry for example.
“My investigation focussed on whether these women were eligible for the scheme and on how the scheme was administered,” Tyndall said.
The evidence shows that these women should have been included and that there were flaws in the way the scheme was administered.
He also disclosed that, despite discussions between the DJE and his office, “it has not been possible to resolve the complaints”.
The Ombudsman’s findings were:
- The DJE would have been aware of links between the units where the women lived and the Magdalens
- The DJE gave undue weight to evidence supplied by the religious congregations involved
- It was ‘manifestly unfair’ of the DJE to exclude women on the basis they might not have been able to apply for the Residential Institutions Redress scheme, which had been set up 10 years prior to address a different injustice
- Eligibility criteria were not disclosed to the women whose applications were denied
- There was no interview process established to until well after a year after applications were received.
The report has recommended that any denied applications be reconsidered, with a view to their being accepted, where there is evidence that a woman worked in a listed laundry but was recorded as having been ‘admitted’ elsewhere.
It has likewise recommended that any applications where there was a dispute over the length of stay in an institution should be reviewed, and that ‘guidance’ be produced centrally on the development and operation of future such redress schemes.
However, the list of institutions will not be expanded as a result of the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
The full report can be read here
First published 7.15am