Fears over costs leave Protestants without redress
Exclusion goes against official policy as survivors of Church of Ireland 'laundries' seek compensation
Published 24/02/2013 | 04:00
Abuse victims in "Protestant Magdalene Laundries" with links to the State were not included in the redress scheme for fear of the financial cost, contrary to the official policy that money would not be a factor, official documents suggest.
Church of Ireland survivors are also convinced that they have to date been excluded from any redress scheme because they were not Catholics, but are demanding justice and are preparing a legal case against the State if not included.
Following the State apology to the Magdalene survivors, the Government is under mounting pressure from within its own ranks and from the opposition to include Protestant victims, such as survivors from Bethany Homes, in a compensation scheme, currently being extended to Catholic survivors in the Magdalene Laundries.
There are less than 20 survivors left who went through Bethany Homes, and they have argued that their inclusion in the Quirke scheme would result in a very small additional cost to the State.
A number of Bethany Homes survivors are to address a gathering of TDs next Thursday, in order to highlight their case. The gathering is being organised by Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald who has said that the State owes the Bethany victims a "full apology" for the "disgraceful abuse" they suffered.
However, the Department of Justice is excluding the Bethany Homes survivors from the list of institutions under consideration by Mr Justice John Quirke, for fear of the precedent it would set.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Independent under Freedom of Information show that between 2003 and 2005, senior officials across several government departments were "reluctant" to include such homes on the list for fear of further cost exposure, which abuse victims say is contrary to the stated policy of the redress scheme.
Discussions between officials about the Protestant Mrs Smyly's Homes for Necessitous Children reveal that consideration of it was done on financial grounds.
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"The Tanaiste would be unlikely to include the Smyly Homes on the redress list, as we are reluctant to agree to a further indemnity," one senior adviser said to another in May 2005 by email. Another email between officials, sent during the drafting of Parliamentary Questions, reveals that because of an inability to get a clear estimate of how much the institution was willing to contribute to the scheme, it was being left out.
"Regarding the Mrs Smyly's Homes, we have been unable to get any 'beyond doubt' information on their assets. It now looks as though we have to go ahead now without them," one official sent to another in May 2004.
Separate documents released show how officials decided to include a number of Protestant homes because they knew there would be no claims from centres which "operated in the 1800s".
According to documents released, officials included the homes on the grounds there would be no claims from those institutions. One official wrote to his colleague: "I would be inclined to include them in the schedule as they were used as residential centres for children. I think it is safe to assume that there will be no applications for those centres which operated in the 1800s!"
According to Derek Linster, chairman of the Bethany Homes survivors' group, the documents confirm his suspicions that he and his fellow survivors were excluded on religious and cost grounds.
"All we want is the same treatment. We are Irish citizens too. It is simple justice we want," he told the Sunday Independent.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, having previously said there was no reason to include the Bethany Homes survivors, said on Tuesday that he hoped they now would be part of the redress scheme.