Magdalene analysis: promise of ongoing care most valuable to survivors
Pension and medical cover may be worth more than lump sum
The entrance to the Magdalene laundry on Stanhope Street North in inner city Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES
At last. It has taken so long to get this far and mainly due to State resistance. But people should not get carried away. There can be no doubt the lump sum to be awarded to the Magdalene survivors will be very welcome.
But probably the most welcome recommendation of all from Justice John Quirke is the ongoing care promised to the women by the State through pensions and medical cover.
Over time, it will be far more valuable to them than that lump sum. It will still be there when the lump sum is gone.
The experiences of those who have received lump sums from the Residential Institutions Redress Board underscores this. The average payment there to date has been €62,860, with the largest award being €300,500.
By December 21st of last year, the Redress Board had dealt with 15,397 people who had been in orphanages, reformatories and/or industrial schools as children and, to date, its awards have cost the State an estimated €1.5 billion.
It may not seem so, but that was a good deal from the State’s perspective. It has no further responsibility for the care of those surviving men and women.
Meanwhile, the award of sizeable lump sums has been disastrous for some former residents of the orphanages, reformatories and/or industrial schools. It added to addiction problems while others accumulated attentive relatives and new friends until the money ran out.
But, it also must be said, it has helped to transform the lives of many in a positive way.
However Justice John Quirke and his committee have learned from the Redress Board experience.
Wisely, his emphasis has been on the ongoing care of women who had been in the laundries. It may also have been easier for his committee to make such a recommendation as such care for a projected 700 plus women will cost far less than it would ever have for those 15, 397 people who had been in residential institutions as children.
Justice Quirke’s decision that each woman’s circumstances will be individually addressed is also the fairest way of approaching things. But it may be hampered by lack of records where some of the 10 launderies are concerned. Two of them had no records.
And, while it is expected the State will not be mean-spirited in dealing with the women, it is unlikely to be foolish either.
For instance, it is known that some few women have
exaggerated the length of their stay in a laundry. But, in general, this is a non-issue.
It has also to be remembered that lump sums to be awarded the women will be calculated on the time spent in the launderies. This means the amounts will not be huge for the majority.