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Thursday 2 October 2014

Shatter: Congregations have ‘moral obligation’ to back Magdalene scheme

Sarah Stack

Published 16/07/2013 | 18:26

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Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter

RELIGIOUS congregations have a moral obligation to contribute to a fund to support survivors of the Magdalene laundries, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said.

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More than 210 women who worked in the Catholic-run workhouses have already applied to the multi-million euro compensation scheme announced by the Government last month.

 

Mr Shatter revealed he met with the four religious congregations who ran the workhouses - The Good Shepherd Sisters, The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, The Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity - about the redress scheme.

 

"Regrettably, all four religious congregations have informed us that they do not intend to make a financial contribution," said Mr Shatter.

 

"I regard their response as very disappointing.

 

"It is my view that the congregations have a moral obligation to make a reasonable contribution to the fund required under the scheme and that view is shared by my Cabinet colleagues.

 

"It is a view I believe that will be shared by a majority of people outside this House.

 

"I hope that all four congregations will further reflect on the response we have received from them and will again consider making a contribution to the fund and reducing the burden imposed on taxpayers throughout the State."

 

The congregations have previously said they are willing to open their records to any of its 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.

 

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald raised concerns over the refusal of the congregations to make any financial contribution to the redress fund during topical issue debate in the Dail.

 

The scheme is expected to cost between 34.5 million euro and 58 million euro, depending on how many women apply.

 

Under its terms any woman who spent three months or less in a laundry or workhouse will receive a lump sum payment of 11,500 euro, and those who spent a year in a laundry will be paid 20,500 euro (£17,400).

 

The figure increases to 68,500 euro (£58,170) to women who were incarcerated for five years and will be capped at 100,000 euro (£84,925) for women who were in a Magdalene laundry for 10 years or more.

 

A one off payment of up to 50,000 euro will be made, with an annual payment calculated from the remaining sum, which would be paid weekly.

 

Redress applies to women put into Magdalene laundries, as well as St Mary's training centre on Stanhope Street and the House of Mercy training school, Summerhill, Co Wexford, which were added to the list.

 

However survivors of Catholic-run workhouses have threatened to take the Government to the United Nations watchdog on torture over the plans, adding they worked from morning to night for free.

 

Women detained in Magdalene laundries slammed an offer and criticised the religious orders for not doubling the multi-million compensation package being put forward by the State.

 

Other recommendations made in the recent report by retired High Court judge John Quirke included granting the women free access to services, including GP, hospital care, drugs and dental counselling, and making all payments tax free and not to be taken into account in means testing for social welfare or other benefits.

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