Kenny defends decision not to pursue nuns for Magdalene redress fund

Taoiseach calls on religious orders to ‘reflect’ on decision not to contribute to fund

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the issue of liability was clearly motivating the religious orders’ refusal to make a financial contribution to the redress scheme. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the issue of liability was clearly motivating the religious orders’ refusal to make a financial contribution to the redress scheme. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Jul 18, 2013, 01:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on the religious orders that ran the Magdalene laundries to “reflect” on their decision not to contribute to the redress fund for former residents.

“I cannot force them to do that,” he said. “I cannot take away the charitable status, as some people have called for. This is an issue they know about themselves.”

The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have told Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that they will not pay into the fund which could cost between €34.5 million and €58 million.


No legal route
Mr Kenny said he had no intention of going down the legal route of confrontation with the orders. The former residents had asked that the matter be dealt with speedily and that compensation be paid. They also wanted a non-adversarial and non-litigious process. “In order to define the work and attendance records of those who lived and worked in the Magdalene laundries, we need the co-operation of the religious orders and they have given it.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the issue of liability was clearly motivating the orders’ refusal to make a financial contribution to the redress scheme. “I respectfully say that the Government’s record of failure to tackle the elites and to pursue institutions for wrongdoing is shocking and not good enough,” he said.

Mr Adams said those elites, whether in financial or religious institutions, needed to be made accountable to the people. “It is no accident that the women and girls were mostly poor,” he added. “Then, as now, it is one law for the poor and one law for the rich.”

Mr Kenny said the orders knew the accountability involved. The Government had decided on the range of compensation amounts on Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations.

“The religious orders involved know all about this,” he added. “They can make a decision now, on reflection, to make a monetary contribution towards this compensation amount if they so wish.”

However, he said, Mr Adams should not expect him to have the State go down a legal route whereby it would spend more than any amount they wanted to see paid to the women.

He said for more than 60 years nothing had been done about the issue. “Government after government, including my party, did nothing about this,” he said. “We have done something about it.”

Quick and efficient
He said the first thing the women wanted when he met them was that the State would apologise for what had happened. Given their circumstances and age, they wanted a system that was non-litigious and non-adversarial that would be quick, efficient and deliver a conclusion.

Mr Kenny said the Government could not operate the scheme without the help of the orders as they had all the records on who worked and lived in the laundries. The scheme was not contingent on a 50-50 principle or on a forced contribution from the orders.

He said the women had told him time was not on their side and that they did not want tribunals and millionaire lawyers emerging from the process.