Excessive burden of proof on Magdalene survivors, Dáil told

Maureen O’Sullivan says inadequate records to blame

An enormous burden of proof was placed on some of the survivors of the Magdalene laundries because of inadequate records, Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan told the Dáil.

She said “one would imagine that a much more flexible approach could be adopted at this point” and that “the ladies to whom I refer could be given the benefit of the doubt’’.

Ms O’Sullivan said some of the women were being excluded from redress, while others were being offered less than their entitlement.

“There are those who feel so defeated by this extra burden they are being obliged to shoulder that it is like being back in the laundries for them.’’


No official proof

She referred to the case of one woman whose date of entry to a laundry was not in doubt. There was a discrepancy in that there was no official proof of where she was for a very short period, although there were people prepared to swear affidavits to prove she was exactly where she said she was.

The woman, said Ms O’Sullivan, had approached the Department of Justice following the Taoiseach’s apology to the Magdalene survivors in February 2013, and registered with the implementation team at the end of June of that year.

Ms O’Sullivan said she had been trying to obtain an answer from the department for the woman, who was in her 80s, for the past six weeks, and was told it was awaiting a directive.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he would ask Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to follow up the case. He said the Government would ensure there would be no delays in the payment of compensation.

Retention of records

One of the issues arising related to the retention of records, he said. The Government agreed that Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn would bring forward legislative proposals to allow for the retention of records by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and all of the issues relating to the Magdalene laundries.

“We are concerned about the fact that the destruction of any of those records would represent a significant loss.’’

Mr Gilmore said he completely accepted it would be desirable to ensure the commitments made relating to payments and the provision of healthcare and supports to survivors of the laundries were followed up on.

The Government, he added, would be happy to investigate any matters brought to its attention by Ms O’Sullivan.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times