Women excluded from Magdalene scheme were denied fair procedure - court rules

Pair claimed that as girls in industrial schools they were forced to work in the laundries

 

Two former industrial school residents, who worked in laundries but were excluded from the Magdalene compensation scheme, were denied fair procedures in how the decision was reached, a High Court judge has ruled.

The women had claimed that as girls in industrial schools they were forced to work in the laundries.

Mr Justice Michael White has directed the Department’s restorative justice unit (RJU) to reconsider the matter in light of his findings and in the context of a review involving the unit and Ombudsman’s office concerning the scope of the ex gratia scheme.

The judge outlined his main findings on Thursday but adjourned making formal orders to late July.

He held that both women were denied fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice in how their applications were decided by the RJU but rejected arguments that he decision on their applications was unreasonable and irrational.

He said the findings of breach of fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice arose because the decisions on their applications were based on information not provided to them by the RJU and which they had no opportunity to challenge.

That information concerned whether or not the schools and laundries, as the RJU maintains, are separate institutions.

The women’s cases centred on a dispute over the entitlement of residents of industrial schools, which fall within the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme, to get compensation under the separate ex-gratia Magdalene scheme for work done in laundries allegedly linked to the schools.

The women claimed the relevant laundries were attached to the schools and they were unreasonably excluded from the Magdalene scheme due to the Department’s “narrow” interpretation of that.

The RJU argued that the schools and laundries at issue, including An Grianán school and St Mary’s Home and laundry located in the same complex at High Park, Drumcondra, Dublin, are “separate” institutions and raised concerns about people seeking “double” compensation under both schemes.

The court heard one of the women got redress for abuse in An Grianán but it was argued that did not include redress for her work in the laundry. The other woman, who lives in the US, got no redress because she had not learned of the redress scheme in time.

Mr Justice White said the key factual difference between the sides seemed to be the requirement of total residence in the institutions. The RJU argued someone who resided on the campus of the relevant institutions, but worked regularly in the laundries, is excluded from the scheme.

The Department’s failure to disclose the dispute between the RJU and the Ombudsman’s office about the operation of the scheme, which emerged during the hearing of the case, was a relevant issue in the proceedings, he said. The court had heard, after intervention of the Ombudsman, four women previously refused admission to the scheme were included.

He said there was a genuine dispute about the women’s eligibility for the scheme and it was not for the court to decide eligibility. He did not consider the Department had acted irrationally in relation to this issue which was highly relevant particularly if an applicant previously got compensation from the Redress Board.

One of the woman is in a particularly unfortunate situation because she was entitled to claim to the Redress Board but, as she lives in the US, had not done so in time and cannot now do so. This meant she was totally reliant on her application to be included in the ex gratia scheme.

The administration of the ex gratia scheme was flawed in these two cases as both women had had no opportunity to make submissions concerning evidence considered by the RJU and the review system on whether the schools and laundries were separate institutions. To that extent, he considered the Department did not apply fair procedures to the applications.

Residents of An Grianan before 1972 were not precluded entering into the ex gratia scheme as it was not considered to be separate from the laundry until 1972, he also noted. The women should have been given an opportunity to provide evidence to contradict the finding the relevant institutions were separate, he said.