Magdalene women seek 'simple' package

Maureen O'Sullivan, who spent two years in a Magdalene laundry, on her way into Leinster House with other survivors yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Maureen O'Sullivan, who spent two years in a Magdalene laundry, on her way into Leinster House with other survivors yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Wed, Feb 20, 2013, 00:00

Survivors of the Magdalene laundries want a compensation system that is simple, effective, non-adversarial, non litigious and compassionate, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil.

He said the women were very strong about not wanting a repetition of the adversarial redress board system that operated for victims of child clerical sex abuse.

And he said the Government could consider the issue of the Summer Hill home in Wexford in due course.

Mr Kenny also told Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams the Minister for Justice was looking at the question of the Bethany Homes. They were not laundries but dealt with health and welfare in respect of young women and their children.

Mr Adams, who raised the issue of the compensation for the Magdalene survivors, noted that an ex gratia payment scheme was to be established. Thats essentially a payment without admission of liability, he said.

He asked Mr Kenny was that not at odds with the sentiment of his remarks last night and with the McAleese report, both of which accepted that the State was liable for what happened to these women.

He was also concerned about how the system would operate and recalled the debate for the women who suffered with symphysiotomy.

"We gave them a standing ovation that was until last night the best occasion I spent in this Dail. But the symphysiotomy sufferers are still waiting for justice," Mr Adams said.

The Louth TD also asked if there would be an independent appeal mechanism for the women. He said no one wanted runaway legal fees but asked would some consideration be given to allowing some form of legal representation to those women who feel they may need it.

There were women who might want a lawyer to act for them because they wanted to maintain anonymity and the advocacy groups only represented a minority of the affected women. The vast majority of women dont want to be known.

Mr Adams noted that the Stanhope Street laundry in Dublin would be included but said there was no reference to Summer Hill in Wexford and he asked that it be included.

The Taoiseach, who said the Government could look at the issue of Summer Hill in due course, stressed the points the women had made about the system of compensation and support they wanted introduced.

One of the really strong points coming from the groups of Magdalene women was they wanted the State to apologise but they wanted a system that was effective, clear, fair, non-adversarial and non-legalistic.

He said they did not want a gravy train from a legalistic or administrative point of view.

He said the terms of reference drafted and presented by the Minister for Justice and approved by Cabinet for Mr Justice Quirke, were to work out a scheme and a strategy that will give recognition to those principles and thats why justice has been asked to report back in three months.

He added: They did not want a repeat of the redress board, of the process of the redress board and they were very strong about that. Under no circumstance did they want that.