Wednesday 13 December 2017

Two women claim they were excluded from state compensation over the Magdalene laundries

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Aodhan O'Faolain

Two women who claim they were forced, while attending industrial schools, to work in Magdalene laundries have alleged they have been unreasonably excluded from a State compensation scheme.

Due to their exclusion on a “technicality”, the women view the Taoiseach’s apology over the treatment of those who worked in Magdalene laundries as “hollow”, their counsel Michael Lynn SC said.

They have sued the Minister for Justice in proceedings which opened on Wednesday (Jan 25) before Mr Justice Michael White.

The women claim, as schoolgirls in the 1970s and 1980s in industrial schools run by religious orders, they were forced to work in Magdalene laundries which, they allege, were linked to those schools.

One of the women was aged just two when she was taken from her family for reasons unknown to her and placed in a school and was sent to work in a laundry for periods, the court heard.

The second woman claims, also while placed in school, she worked in two different laundries at various times when she was aged eight to 18.

The claim relates to institutions including An Grianan training centre and St Mary’s Refuge Laundry, both formerly located in the same building at High Park, Drumcondra, Dublin.  It also relates to St Dominic’s school and another laundry, both formerly located in a complex at Cork Road, Waterford.

The Department of Justice Restorative Justice Unit found An Grianan and St Dominics were separate institutions from the laundries. 

Both women claim they were unreasonably refused compensation on foot of such findings under the government's scheme to deal with claims over the laundries.

They allege the schools and laundries were “one and the same” and contend the HSE had gathered evidence to that effect.

Both maintain they are in the same position as other women who have lived with the “stigma” of working in Magdalene laundries.

In an affidavit, one of the women said, as a child, she was forced to work in the laundries without pay, abused and neglected and “treated like a slave”.

She wanted “recognition as a Magdalene woman and a recognition by official Ireland that what happened to me was wrong”.

The apology offered by the government was offered to all the Magdalene women and she could not understand the Minister’s stance, she said.  

The Minister and her officials had “deliberately” offered an interpretation of the scheme “at variance” with the Taoiseach’s apology.

The second woman said the Residential Institutions Redress Board had wrongly rated eight out of a possible 25 the abuse she suffered.

In opposing the action, the Minister rejects the claims they were denied compensation on a “technicality” and pleads they were excluded because they did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the ex gratia compensation scheme concerning Magdalene laundries.

It also says the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme was set up to cover those who suffered abuse in such institutions and the Magdalene Laundry Scheme is entirely different.

The case continues.

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