Magdalene fund must be 'clear and fair'


The Government will consider whether to include the Summer Hill home in Wexford as part of the Magdalene laundries compensation scheme, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

But the inclusion of the Dublin Bethany home in the scheme has been ruled out by the Department of Finance because it was a mother and baby home and not a laundry.

Speculation about its inclusion rose after Mr Kenny said in the Dáil the Minister for Justice was looking at the issue of Bethany House. But the Taoiseach said it was not a laundry but dealt instead with “health and welfare in respect of young women and their children”.

He told the Dáil the women wanted a compensation system that was “simple, effective, non-adversarial, non-litigious” and compassionate. They did not want a scheme that would be a “gravy train” in any legalistic or administrative way.

Mr Kenny was responding to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who said the women in Bethany homes had been failed by the State. They and St Mary’s in Summer Hill should be included in the scheme in the same way that the Stanhope Street laundry in Dublin was included.

Ex gratia scheme

He also noted that an ex gratia payment scheme was to be established, but said “that’s essentially a payment without admission of liability”.

Mr Adams suggested to Mr Kenny that it was “at odds with the sentiment of your remarks last night and with the McAleese report, both of which accept that the State is liable for what happened to these women”.

He was also concerned about how the system would operate, and recalled the debate for the women who suffered with symphysiotomy. “We gave them a standing ovation that until last night was the best occasion I spent in this Dáil. But the symphysiotomy sufferers are still waiting for justice.”

Mr Adams also asked if there would be an independent appeal mechanism for the women. He said “no one wants runaway legal fees but will some consideration be given to allowing some form of legal representation to those women who feel they may need it”.

There were women who might want a lawyer to act for them because they wanted to maintain anonymity, and the advocacy groups only represented a minority of the affected women. “The vast majority of women don’t want to be known.”

However, Mr Kenny said “one of the really strong points coming from the groups of Magdalene women was they wanted the State to apologise but they wanted a system that was effective, clear, fair, non-adversarial and non-legalistic”.

He said the McAleese report was very complex dealing with a huge range of individual circumstances and stories and that was why the women want it done in a non-adversarial, non-tortuous, non-litigious way.

He also stressed the women were “very strong” about not wanting a repetition of the adversarial redress board system that operated for victims of child clerical sex abuse.

He said Mr Justice John Quirke would put in place a set of recommendations, including how best to operate the fund and with a sum sufficient to meet the requirements he set out.

Terms of reference

Mr Adams said the terms of reference included the women resident in Britain, but made no reference to those in the US or elsewhere.

The Taoiseach said that because of the work done by the Step by Step organisation in Britain, the Government decided to allocate €250,000 to it.