Flanagan to broaden access to Magdalene redress scheme

Cabinet to discuss proposals to allow more former laundry workers to apply for redress

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is bring to Cabinet proposals for broader access to the Magdalene redress scheme.

Mr Flanagan will tell fellow ministers on Tuesday his officials plan to implement the recommendations of a highly critical report by the Ombudsman on the issue last November.

In the report, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall found that some women who worked in the Magdalene laundries had been wrongly refused access to the scheme. He said they were treated in a "manifestly unfair" way by the Department of Justice under the terms of the scheme prepared by Mr Justice John Quirke in 2013.

Mr Flanagan and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met Mr Tyndall last week in relation to the report.

Following what is described by sources as a “constructive” meeting, Mr Flanagan will inform his Ministerial colleagues of his intention to prepare a memo addressing the Government’s intention to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations in last November’s report.

The Ombudsman found that younger women who were living in the same buildings or convent as older women registered as being in the laundries had been refused access to the scheme, because they were registered with industrial schools or training centres.

“The department administered the scheme on the basis that only women who could demonstrate that they had been officially recorded as admitted to one of the 12 listed institutions were eligible for admission to the scheme,” Mr Tyndall said.

“This completely ignored the practical reality of the situation, a reality where the women, as girls, lived on the same site as the laundry, in institutions run by the same order of nuns as ran the laundry, and they would could easily move around or be transferred between the two, sometimes even without having to step outside.”

These women often worked every day in the laundries alongside the women who were deemed eligible for the scheme. In some cases, women in identical situations were treated differently by the department for the purposes of the scheme.

"The narrow interpretation [of the scheme by the department] is difficult to account for," Mr Tyndall said. He also recommended, for women who now lacked capacity, that the department work with the Courts Service Ward of Court scheme to process future applications in a "timely and sensitive manner". He further emphasised that the scheme remain open.

Finally he recommended, as it was unlikely this was not the last such redress scheme given Ireland’s “difficult past,” that guidelines be produced centrally for the operation of future restorative justice or redress schemes.