Fitzgerald says €12.8m paid to 357 Magdalene women

Minister for Justice says legislation will provide extra supports for the women

 Ruth Coppinger TD: “This is an important landmark for women. Gender-based violence is at epidemic levels and one in four women in Ireland has experienced domestic violence.”  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ruth Coppinger TD: “This is an important landmark for women. Gender-based violence is at epidemic levels and one in four women in Ireland has experienced domestic violence.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Some 357 former Magdalene laundry residents have been paid a total of €12.8 million in lump sum payments, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has told the Dáil. “A further 106 formal offers have been made and letters of provisional assessment on the length of stay in a relevant institution have been issued to an additional 35 applicants,’’ she added.

She said the ex-gratia scheme covered the 10 Magdalene laundries, which were the subject of the McAleese report, as well as St Mary’s training centre, Stanhope Street, and the House of Mercy training school, Summerhill, Wexford. A substantial body of work and engagement had already taken place with those eligible for the scheme, she added. Seventy-one of the 754 applications had been refused because the applicants were not in the 12 specified institutions.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government, in her proposal, had agreed to the publication of the scheme of a new Bill providing for services and supports for women who worked in the laundries. Its purpose was to make additional provision for access to health services and the exempting of payments made to by the State to the women on the basis of means-tested criteria. “It also provides for legal provision for relatives, or other appropriate persons, to act on behalf of any of the women who do not have the capacity to act on their own behalf.”

The Minister was replying to Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan who asked why An Grianán was not included on the list of institutions covered by the restorative justice scheme. Ms Fitzgerald said the scheme was primarily for women who were in the laundries. “Obviously, we are in a different situation now with a new inquiry to be initiated following the Tuam situation,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ms Fitzgerald told Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger she was anxious to see Ireland ratifying the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence as quickly as possible. It would require changes to domestic legislation which her department was working on.

Ms Coppinger said the convention had been signed in 2011, but it had not yet been ratified by the Government. “This is an important landmark for women,” she added. “Gender-based violence is at epidemic levels and one in four women in Ireland has experienced domestic violence.”

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government was committed to introducing consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation.