Cabinet approves support package for Magdalene women

Medical card and payments for services such as nursing care to be exempt from means test

Women who worked in the Magdalene laundries and remain resident in Ireland will get a medical card and other supports following Cabinet approval for draft legislation today.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald also confirmed payments which have been made by the State to the women will be exempt from means test criteria for services such as nursing home support.

"Following the apology issued in the Dáil by an Taoiseach to former residents of the Magdalene laundries, the Government committed to implementing all of the recommendations made by Mr Justice [John]Quirke in his report," she said.

Mr Justice Quirke recommended that legislation be introduced to give the Magdalene women the same entitlement as those under the Hepatitis C scheme.


This will now happen under the Redress for Women who Were in Certain Institutions Bill 2014. The Government approved the outline of the draft legislation today at Cabinet.

Under it women who worked in the launderies will recieve a medical card, giving them access to the services they require. However, women living abroad who were in the launderies are not covered by the Bill and their access to equivalent medical services will be dealt with "on an administrative basis" by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

A statement from the Department of Justice said this was because of the “wide variation of country health system’s organisation”.

Legal provision is being made for relatives or other appropriate persons to act on behalf of any of the women who do not have the capacity to act of their own behalf.

Ms Fitzgerald said lump sums totalling €12.8 million had been paid to 357 former residents of Magdalene laundries. A total of 754 applications have been received to date, she said.

A further 106 formal offers have been made and letters of provisional assessment on the length of stay in a relevant institution have issued to an additional 35 applicants.

Ms Fitzgerald said payments of up to €100,000 each are being made to women who worked in Magdalene Laundries, depending on their length of stay in the laundries. In addition, the Department of Social Protection is making pension-type payments to the women.

The medical cards will be introduced by the Department of Health but the Department of Justice will introduce the necessary legislative provisions in the Bill approved today by Cabinet.

Ms Fitzgerald said a number of Mr Justice Quirke’s recommendations required minor changes in legislation. “I am therefore very pleased to announce today that the Government has approved the scheme of a Bill to give effect to these legislative changes,” she said.

"Once the Bill is published I would hope that it will be enacted very promptly, with the co-operation of the Oireachtas. "

Taoiseach Enda Kenny delivered an emotional apology to the Magdalen women in the Dáil in February 2013. Mr Justice Quirke published his recommendations the following May.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times