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Shatter to demand four orders pay towards Magdalene fund

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is going to demand that four religious congregations which ran the Magdalene Laundries make a contribution to the compensation fund.

It came after Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore bluntly told the religious congregations that they would have to help the State pay for the compensation fund for the survivors. But the Government does not have any legal power to force the congregations to contribute funds.

The Irish Independent has learnt that the matter was discussed at Cabinet this week with ministers – and there was full agreement on a demand for a contribution from the religious orders.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Alan Shatter has confirmed that he is going to be writing to them to ask for a contribution to the compensation fund.

By lunchtime yesterday, around 200 potential Magdalene survivors had contacted his department to inquire about the compensation scheme.

The department has confirmed that compensation will only be available to Magdalene survivors –rather than relatives of those who died.

The four religious congregations involved in running the ten Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996 have chosen not to comment so far on the new demand for payment. They are the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refugeand the Religious Sisters of Charity.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte pointed out that the religious orders in general had still not paid the extra contribution they had promised four years ago.

"I remember pursuing it several times a week at Leaders' Questions with (former Taoiseach Bertie) Ahern, who scoffed at the notion that it would ever reach €1bn," he said.

The report into state involvement in the Magdalene Laundries found that the religious congregations made little or no profit from running them.

In the Dail yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged the compensation fund would not be a "gravy train" for lawyers. He said the Magdalene survivors he had spoken to had specifically asked for a process that was "non-legalistic" and "non-adversarial".

Mr Kenny said the cabinet would consider extending the compensation scheme to former residents of St Mary's Training Centre in Summerhill in Wexford. He also said Justice Minister Alan Shatter was considering the issue of the former Bethany Home for unmarried mothers in Dublin - which has been described as a Protestant version of the Magdalene Laundries. It has not been included in the compensation scheme.

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Bethany Home Survivors chairperson Derek Leinster welcomed Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's comments that former residents should be included in the scheme.

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