independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Donations to Magdalene fund urged

Enda Kenny said religious orders had a moral and ethical obligation to the women who survived the Magdalene laundries

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has urged religious orders to reconsider contributing funds to a compensation scheme for survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

He repeated claims from Justice Minister Alan Shatter that no legal action could be taken to force the four congregations that ran the workhouses to give financial support - after they refused to pay into the multimillion-euro scheme.

"I would ask them to reflect on the question of a monetary contribution," Mr Kenny said. "I can't force them to do that. I can't take away their charitable status that some have been talking about. This is an issue that they know about themselves and that's the position."

More than 210 women who worked in the Catholic-run workhouses have already applied to the compensation programme, which was announced by the Government last month.

The Taoiseach said the scheme was not designed on the basis the religious orders would be forced to contribute to the fund, which is expected to cost the state between 34.5 million and 58 million euro. But he said he would "like to think" that they will decide to help, which would in turn ease the burden on the taxpayer.

Mr Shatter confirmed on Tuesday that the four religious orders - The Good Shepherd Sisters, The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Mercy and The Sisters of Charity - informed the Government they would not make a financial contribution.

The minister said he found their response "very disappointing". He insisted they have a moral and ethical obligation to the women who endured such harsh conditions in the laundries, where girls as young as 11 were stripped of their names and forced to work without pay in the cold, monastic institutions.

But the Taoiseach said he has no intention of "going down a legal route of confrontation" with the orders.

"They didn't want tribunals, they didn't want millionaire lawyers emerging from this, they didn't want a long-term set of discussions here," Mr Kenny added. "They wanted speedy, non-litigious, effective response and they wanted an apology from the state. That is all in place."

The congregations previously confirmed they are willing to open their records to any of their past residents who need help validating applications and will continue to care for more than 100 elderly women who originally resided in the Magdalene Laundries.

Press Association

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