A Magdalene laundry in the 1950s; Dr Martin McAleese with his report into Magdalene laundries in 2013
In the Irish Examiner…
Conall Ó Fátharta reports:
The Department of Justice failed to examine all available evidence when it wrongly refused some Magdalene laundry survivors access to redress payments.
Following an almost year-long investigation of the scheme, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has published a scathing assessment of the department’s administration of the scheme.
The department had refused several women access to redress, claiming they were not resident in one of the 12 institutions covered by the scheme.
However, the Ombudsman was provided with evidence that some of the Magdalene laundries were either physically linked to the units where the women lived, or were located on the same grounds as the Magdalen laundries and were, in reality, “one and the same institution”.
The report determined that the department gave “undue weight” to evidence supplied by the religious congregations and some of it had been requested and received by the department after the decision to exclude the women was made.
The report also said it was not evident “what weight, if any, was afforded to the testimony of the women and/or their relatives”.
Further to the Religious Sisters of Charity getting ‘sole ownership’ of the new National Maternity Hospital.
And the online petition, against the move, that has gained more than 75,000 names…
And the Sisters of Charity basing their decision not to pay redress to the Magdalene survivors based on the findings of the McAleese Report…
Readers may wish to recall the following reported by Conor Ryan and Clare O”Sullivan, in the Irish Examiner, back in February 2013…
The Sisters of Charity made €63m in sell-offs during the boom of which €45m came from the 2001 deal for land around its former laundry in Donnybrook, Dublin.
Last year, the Religious Sisters of Charity, who amassed a €233m property portfolio, said they could not afford to release €3m it promised to put into a trust fund for the victims of institutional child abuse.
The order blamed the decision to reduce its cash offer by 60% on the poor property market.
In 2009, when they supplied details of their assets to the Government, it had financial interests of €33m and sold €63m of property in 10 years. The order said it needed to set aside €38.6m to care for its 264 sisters.
The grounds of the former Bon Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway; Galway West independent TD Catherine Connolly
You may recall how, during Leaders’ Questions on March 8, Independent TD Catherine Connolly, of Galway West, asked about a second interim report from the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes which was given to the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone last September.
This interim report was to identify any matters that the commission felt warranted further investigation as part of the commission’s work.
Ms Connolly asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny:
“I’m asking you now to confirm, why it hasn’t been published? Eight months later? What’s in it that’s so frightening? What’s in it that prevents it being published?”
Further to this…
Fiach Kelly, in The Irish Times, reports this morning that the indemnity agreement signed in 2002 between the then Minister for Education Michael Woods and 18 religious congregations – which served to cap the orders’ liability – may be extended to include children abused in mother and baby homes.
Just recently, the Comptroller and Auditor General found that, as of the end of 2015, the congregations had paid just 13% of the total compensation bill which, at that point, amounted to €1.5billion.
Mr Kelly writes:
The existing redress scheme for victims of residential child abuse could be reopened to cover those abused as children in mother and baby homes, an unpublished report to the Government has recommended.
The proposal is contained in the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, The Irish Times has learned. It has caused alarm in Government circles, due to the cost of the existing scheme.
It says the redress scheme established in 2002 could be used again to provide compensation for those who were abused as children in mother and baby homes.
…Ms Zappone has been repeatedly pressed in the Dáil for the reason for the delay in publishing the second interim report, which she received last autumn.
A briefing on it was given to Cabinet in the autumn, but a number of Ministers could not remember a redress scheme being discussed. Well-informed sources said the delay in its publication was due to the controversial nature of the proposed form of redress.
One source suggested that it may never be published if there had not been public outcry over the commission’s confirmation last month of the discovery of the remains of babies and infants at the site of a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway. However it is now expected to be published next week.
Michael O’Brien: “All we have is denial, denial, denial. And the one thing that I will propose: that the assets of the Catholic Church be frozen and frozen now. Until the mother and babies, the institutional abuse, the clerical abuse and the magdalene laundries – all that is sorted out for once and for all so that this country can move, as it did years ago, as a peaceful country. And not for us to be listening, day after day, day after day. Because when you talk about abuse, I feel, as if it only happened to me a few minutes ago. And this is the problem we have.”
“The Catholic Church has denied and denied and covered up, from the first day. And not one Bishop, not one who covered it up has been brought into one of our courts.”
Claire Byrne: “Michael, do you not feel that things are moving? When we have the Taoiseach saying, only yesterday, that the church must measure up to the responsibilities that they accepted. Do you not feel that that’s a fundamental shift?”
O’Brien: “I can’t believe the Taoiseach any more because I remember when they removed the ambassador from the Vatican – a big hullaballoo. What did he do? He sent him back again. He put an ambassador back in there again. And went soft on the church. And because the mother and babies [story] came, this disgrace upon all of us, a shame upon all of us, that this thing happened, he now, again, is battering, shouting at the church.”
“I’m shouting at the church because I know what the church done to me and what two or three individuals of the church done to me. It’s easy to stand there, you, David [Quinn]. You know nothing about being raped and buggered. You know nothing about it. I do. I do. And four of my brothers and three of my little sisters – the same thing happened to them. Eight of us from the one family.”
Byrne: “Ok, Michael, I just…”
O’Brien: “So don’t…”
Byrne: “I just don’t want to put David in a position where he’s seen as a denier because he is not.”
Gorman: “It might be useful for me to say something and I completely understand where Michael’s anger and upset and I think it’s quite righteous where it’s coming from. But I do just want to say David [Quinn] and I were talking earlier on about the first time we were in a television studio and on that occasion David was advocating for the church to sell off every asset the church possessed until it properly compensated and dealt with these issues. So…”
David Quinn: “Thank you.”
Gorman: “So, to be fair, David’s been clear. David and I don’t agree on a very significant number of things but, to be fair, he’s also looked for, he’s generally looked for accountability on these issues.”
Byrne: “And I’m glad you made that point. We did ask out Claire Byrne Live/Amarach research panel: should the Government seize church land and property to compensate victims of clerical or institutional abuse – 69% said yes and 17% said no, 14% don’t know. Which is interesting. Because only in the last couple of hours, Minister Leo Varadkar says that property cannot be seized and that, if we ran a referendum on it, that that referendum would be lost. I know that Simon Harris suggested that, over the weekend, that perhaps we could do that. I don’t know, David, if you have a view of that.”
Quinn: “I mean it’s extremely likely it would be lost because you, you’d have to change the constitution in such a way that you make it easy for the State to seize property and, you know, it wouldn’t just be the church that would be affected. Basically, you’d give the State incredibly sweeping powers to seize property. Obviously, in terms of the compensation scheme, the 18 orders around the institutions must contribute their fair share and so the Comptroller and Auditor General released a report and so, if they’re not paying their fair share. Mind you, it also showed, of the 18 orders, most have paid what they said they’d pay and it’s important to put that on the record. The two, which are the biggest ones, which are the Christian Brothers the Mercy sisters, who ran most of the country’s institutions, they have yet to meet their obligations. I hope that happens in time. It ought to happen in time.”
Donald Clarke: “…People who do not believe in the Catholic doctrine, do not believe in all the things that are being said, should not take part in its rituals. These seems a very, very modest proposal to me…”
Martin McAleese with McAleese Inquiry into Magdalene laundries in February 2013
Further to the 2002 indemnity deal signed between then Minister for Education Dr Michael Woods and 18 congregations which capped the congregations’ abuse liability at €128million.
And last week’s Comptroller and Auditor General report which shows the congregations have paid just 13% of the €1.5billion compensation fund for victims of abuse who were residents of religious institutions.
And the McAleese Inquiry into the Magalene laundries which was chaired by Martin McAleese and published on Tuesday, February 5, 2013.
In the Irish Examiner.
Conall Ó Fátharta writes:
A religious order that ran two Magdalene Laundries told the Government that its decision not to contribute any money to the redress scheme for survivors was based on the findings of the McAleese Report.
…To date, the four orders that ran Magdalene Laundries — the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity — have refused to contribute any money to the redress scheme set up in 2013 to compensate women.
The McAleese committee had no remit to investigate allegations of torture or other criminal offences that occurred in the laundries.
However, the Government in its August 2013 letter to the UN Committee against Torture said that, based on the McAleese committee’s interviewing of 118 ex-residents, “no factual evidence to support allegations of systematic torture or ill-treatment of a criminal nature in these institutions was found”.
Documents released under Freedom of Information show the Government wrote to the orders in February 2013 asking them to formally contribute to the redress fund. It wrote again in January 2014.
All four orders stated they would not contribute any money to the scheme.
Regional leader of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Sr Sheila Murphy responded on three occasions to then justice minister Alan Shatter stating its decision not to contribute was made after examining the findings of the McAleese Report.
On February 7, 2013:
Conor Ryan, in the Irish Examiner, reported:
The four religious orders who established and ran the for-profit laundries have substantial assets and it’s for this reason that the Justice For Magdalenes group (JFM) are arguing that the €296m made in property deals during the boom by these four orders must form part of a redress package. Many of the sites the orders haven’t sold and hold on their balance sheets continue to raise revenue by selling services to the State.
Three of the four orders that ran the laundries have earned €86m from the HSE from services provided on these sites in the past six years up to last year.
This morning, The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General published a report on the cost of the child abuse inquiry and redress schemes.
Via The Comptroller
The work of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and of the Redress Board is largely complete. Costs to the end of 2015 of the child abuse inquiry and redress are an estimated €1.5 billion.
Both the cost to the State and the time required to bring the process to a conclusion have hugely exceeded original estimates.
The Commission’s work cost an estimated €82 million – the Department of Education and Skills initially forecast the cost at €2.5 million.
The final report of the Commission, often referred to as the Ryan report, was published in May 2009.
The redress scheme accounts for the largest element of the costs, at an estimated €1.25 billion.
The original forecast cost of the scheme was €250 million.
By the end of 2015, awards totalling €970 million had been made to 15,579 claimants – an average award of €62,250. 85% of the awards were at or below a level of €100,000 per person. The highest award made was €300,000.
By 31 December 2015, the Redress Board had approved legal cost payments of €192.9 million to 991 legal firms in respect of 15,345 applications.
17 legal firms were paid between €1 million and €5 million each and seven firms were paid amounts between €5 million and €19 million each.
Outside of the redress scheme, other supports have been put in place to assist the former residents of the institutions. The overall spend on health, housing, educational and counselling services is estimated at €176 million.
Government policy was to pursue the sharing of the cost of redress on a 50:50 basis with the religious congregations.
This would require the congregations to contribute €760 million.
To date, the congregations have offered the equivalent to about 23% of the overall cost.
Contributions received from the congregations up to the end of 2015 represent about 13% of the cost.
An indemnity agreement was signed in 2002 between the State and 18 religious congregations, who agreed to contribute to the costs of redress by transferring property, cash and other resources totalling €128 million, of which €21 million remains to be transferred to the State at the end of 2015.
Following the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009, the congregations offered additional cash and property valued at €353 million.
This combined offer was revised to €226 million
in September 2015. Six years after the publication of the Ryan report, only €85 million (38%) of the €226 million offer has been received by the State.
Marie O’Connor, chair of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy, with members of her group and supporters outside the Department of the Taoiseach in September 2014
Paul Cullen, in the Irish Times, is reporting that 53 women, who sought €150,000 compensation under the State redress scheme for women who had a symphysiotomy, have been told they won’t receive the money as it “was established they did not undergo the procedure”.
Mr Cullen also reports that retired judge Maureen Harding Clark, who has been assessing the claims, has warned that she might set a deadline for the furnishing of records “as ‘the scheme does not have an unlimited life’”.
Meanwhile, Mr Cullen reports:
“[Ms Clark] said she understood some women have been unable to establish their belief they had a symphysiotomy because their records are not readily available.”
“Survivors of Symphysiotomy, a group representing women who had the procedure, said the scheme sets an “impossible” level of proof.”
“One woman was asked for receipts for incontinence pads she bought in the 1950s, [Marie] O’Connor claimed.”
Further to the news that the four religious orders that Martin McAleese investigated – the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters – are refusing to contribute to the Magdalene Laundry redress scheme, which is estimated to cost €58million, the Magdalene Survivors Together group is calling on Catholics to boycott mass.
“Irish Catholics have been urged to boycott weekend Masses in protest at the refusal of the congregations of nuns which owned Magdalene laundries to contribute to the redress fund for survivors of the institutions.”
“The call has been made by the Magdalene Survivors Together group which also accuses Taoiseach Enda Kenny of siding with the orders on the issue.”
“In a statement, the group’s spokesman, Steven O’Riordan, said survivors need the public’s support because the Government is “totally out of its depth”.
“He also called on ministers to exempt the women from the Statute of Limitations so that they can sue the four congregations concerned.”
Doubts have emerged on whether Magdalene women who have previously received compensation because they resided in industrial schools or other institutions will qualify for further payment under the new scheme.
The president of the Law Reform Commission, Mr Justice John Quirke (above) is to recommend criteria to be applied when assessing provision in terms of “payments” and supports such as medical cards and counselling services to the Magdalene women.
A Department of Justice spokeswoman said the issue of further compensation for women who were sent to the laundries from industrial schools – and were thus compensated by the State Redress Board – “will be considered by Judge Quirke”.
Support groups for the Magdalene women said it would be difficult to quantify the number of women who received compensation through the Redress Board – but Claire McGettrick of Justice for Magdalenes said it would be “at least dozens”.
She said “without exception” every woman she had spoken to who had dealt with the Redress Board had been told “not to speak” about being compensated for time spent in laundries. “One woman told me that her solicitor just drew a red line through her time in the laundry.”