Government hedges on redress scheme

 

The Government has ruled out any consideration of a redress scheme or compensation for the survivors of Magdalene laundries until after the Dáil considers the 1,000 page report prepared by a committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny made no reference to compensation or redress in the course of several statements made to the Dáil yesterday about the report.

While Mr Kenny said he was sorry the stigma faced by laundry “penitents” had not been removed before now, his comments were lambasted by the main Opposition parties and by survivor groups who expressed disbelief that he had refused to issue a formal State apology.

When pressed on this matter later, the Taoiseach’s spokesman said: “I repeat that the Taoiseach, as Taoiseach, has said that no stigma attaches, or should have attached as long as it did. For that he is sorry.”

When asked why Mr Kenny had made no reference to redress or compensation, his spokesman replied: “I am not aware of any information, content or data in relation to a compensation scheme that may or not be entered into.”

Dáil debate

The report needed to be considered and discussed during a special Dáil debate later this month, he indicated.

Sources indicated that the two-week period in the run-up to the debate could allow for the report to be fully absorbed and discussed and at that stage the Government could assess the public mood and make a decision on compensation.

Privately, senior Government figures have expressed reluctance to follow the template of the redress scheme set up for survivors of other State institutions which proved far costlier than planned, with a high proportion of those costs being accounted for by legal fees.

The Taoiseach and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter both said the 800 to 1,000 former residents still alive were entitled to the best supports that the State could offer. It was later clarified that this referred to existing State supports and not to any new scheme.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to the report and called on the Taoiseach to issue a formal apology and set up a redress scheme.

“The truth is that many of the facts about the relationship between the State and institutions were already in the public domain. The Taoiseach has acknowledged the real suffering endured in the laundries.

“[Yesterday] was a day for a full unequivocal apology, and to validate women and their stories and to recognise the suffering they endured,” she said. Also, survivors must be compensated for lost wages and pensions, and have health and housing needs provided for.

Similarly, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Niall Collins called for a full apology and redress scheme. He said he found it hard to believe the Taoiseach had not made a full apology.

Survivors waiting too long

“The survivors of the Magdalene laundries and their families have been waiting for far too long for an unreserved apology from the State and some form of redress for what they went through. I am surprised and deeply disappointed that they are still waiting for this today,” he said.