Magdalene group awaits scheme plans

Survivors of the Magdalene laundries have said they expect to be told details of a compensation scheme alongside an anticipated state apology by the Government.

Steven O’Riordain, of the Magdalene Survivors Together group, said their demands are the same as they have always been.

“From our understanding, there will be an official state apology. I assume there will be detail on a process to get up and running a restorative scheme,” he said.

A number of survivors are to attend the Dáil on Tuesday to hear the apology in person.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the Government will make “very specific announcements” to address the issues raised in Martin McAleese’s report on the Magdalene laundries.

The minister said a comprehensive package of measures is being produced to meet women’s needs.

A chairperson is expected to be appointed by the Government to examine the case for survivors’ compensation.

Mr O’Riordain added: “For our group and from our perspective, what we have asked for is very clear and very simple, that the women will be paid loss of wages and that they will get a nominal payment for being in the laundries.”

The Government was asked to consider a financial package including a €50,000 payment for any woman sent to a laundry alongside a scheme which would amount to €20,000 per year’s detention for loss of wages.

The Government has not confirmed to survivors and advocates how it views the proposals.

Meanwhile, there are continued calls for the experiences of women detained in Stanhope Street in Dublin and Summerhill in Wexford, classed as training units, to be examined.

The Magdalene inquiry found 10,000 women were incarcerated by the state for a myriad of reasons from petty crime, fleeing the institutes, foster families no longer receiving state allowances and others who were orphaned, abused, mentally or physically disabled, homeless or poor.

The last laundry closed in 1996, at Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin’s north inner city.

Advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) said any package needs to include pensions, healthcare and counselling, as well as housing services and advice.

“In addition, we are also in agreement that lump sum compensation must be paid to the women, to compensate for the effects of the abuse that they suffered in the laundries,” the group said.

JFM has consulted survivors in Ireland, the UK and US and said it supports calls from the London Irish Women Survivors Support Group for wide-ranging redress.

The advocacy group has asked for a benchmark €100,000 lump sum as compensation for survivors, in addition to a package of services including the pensions and lost wages.

The group said this was because women are forgoing important legal rights to go before the courts.

“JFM is most concerned that any government package should not continue to take advantage of the acute financial and other needs of surviving women,” the group said.

“The women deserve a fair, non-adversarial and transparent compensation package.”

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