Tuesday 12 December 2017

Religious orders reject newspaper claims of giving just €1.6m to fund

A memorial plaque to victims of the Magdalene Laundries
A memorial plaque to victims of the Magdalene Laundries

DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent

THE religious orders who ran the controversial Magdalene Laundries have strongly rejected newspaper claims they have given just €1.6 million to a fund for survivors.

In a lengthy statement, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy insisted they have contributed €21.7 million in cash to the Statutory Fund since 2009.

The Sisters argued that “as taxpayers who donate their net salaries/pensions to our charitable funds, our Sisters share in the burden of all citizens in responding to women for whom, in past decades, admission to Magdalene Laundries was seen as appropriate refuge.”

The Sisters were last week severely criticised for stating that they would not be contributing to the state scheme, which led to calls for their orders to lose their charitable status. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Justice Minister Alan Shatter both ruled out such a move, claiming an inability to do so.

In their statement yesterday, the sisters claimed that the €21.7 million cash already paid “is part of a larger contribution offered by our Congregation and valued in December 2009 at in excess of €127.5 million”.

“The Congregation has been steadfast in its efforts to bring about the complete implementation of its contribution to the State. We clarified that we would not contribute financially to the State Scheme. We reminded Minister Shatter that our Congregation has provided care to women who spent time with us in many different contexts throughout our history and that we will continue to do so in ways that accord with our mission,” the statement added.

The Sisters of Mercy restated they welcomed the June publication of the Quirke Report, which recommended the establishment of a statutory fund, but the refusal of the Sisters to contribute means the taxpayers will be left with the hefty bill of up to €56m.

Despite his insistence that he cannot force them to make a financial contribution, he called on the organisations to “reflect” on their decision.

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