Tag Archives: Redress Scheme

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Members of Survivors Of Symphysiotomy outside the Department of the Taoiseach last year and Health Minister Leo Varadkar

“Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has refused to intervene in the Government scheme for survivors of symphysiotomy following claims that it is adversarial and demeaning.”

“Mr Varadkar said the assessor in the scheme, former High Court judge Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clark, was appointed to act as an independent adviser. “That is why I will not attempt to go over her head or overrule her,” he said.”

The scheme “is the least adversarial system that could be established”, he said. To date, 235 offers had been made and 222 accepted from 577 applicants.”

Leo Varadkar refuses to intervene in symphysiotomy payment scheme (Irish Times)

Previously: ‘Prove It, Prove It, Prove It’

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MaireadSymphysiotomy survivors and supporters outside the Department of An Taoiseach last September (top) and Kent Law School lecturer Mairéad Enright (above)

Law lecturer Mairéad Enright has written about the symphysiotomy redress scheme on the Human Rights in Ireland blog.

From her piece:

The closing date for applications to the symphysiotomy redress scheme is this Friday. Assessment has already begun, some redress offers – a very small fraction of the total projected value of the scheme – have already been made and a very small number of those have been accepted.

I have written before about the core problem which has dogged this scheme since it was first proposed – it is simply incompatible, in principle, with the requirements of international human rights law. In particular, these women have not been offered any adequate remedy for breaches of their European Convention rights by the Irish state. O’Keeffe v. Ireland confirms that ex gratia redress without an acknowledgement of state liability cannot be considered an adequate remedy.

Since the scheme was announced, less than a month ago, it has been roundly criticised by expert commentators including, most recently, Sir Nigel Rodley of the UNHRC.

The devil is in the detail of the implementation. The time limit for application is unconscionable. The women had 20 working days to apply. This is the shortest time limit in the history of any State redress scheme: for example, the Residential Institutions Redress Board time limit was 3 years. The rudimentary progress reports published on the scheme website indicate that 70 women only received their application forms in the first week, because they requested them by telephone. The forms are, of course, available to download from the website, but the survivors of symphysiotomy are often very elderly and may not be computer literate.

Applications made after the deadline may be considered in ‘exceptional circumstances’, but in any case will not be considered if they are made after January 15 2015. ‘Exceptional circumstances’ is not defined within the terms of the scheme. It is worth noting that the same phrase affected the RIRB, and was interpreted in a very conservative fashion, to the particular detriment of applicants who took longer to apply because they were socially isolated, had intellectual or psychiatric difficulties, or lived abroad.1 It is beyond doubt that some women who deserve, in principle, to have access to state redress will go without it because the government refuses to give them more time. 70 women have joined Survivors of Symphysiotomy since the UNHRC hearings in July and there may be others. Two women recently brought a High Court challenge to the scheme because it was not clear that women with dementia could have a representative apply on their behalf.

The Department of Health said yesterday that 257 applications have already been made to the scheme. The progress reports give some indication of what is going on. It is not clear that the scheme can be considered a success. Certainly it is working very quickly. For example, in Week 1, 10 applications were made and 7 of these were assessed and offers made.

Everything is moving so quickly, not only because the volume of applications was very low in the beginning, but because assessment is done entirely on paper and payments are not individualised. The sole question for the assessor is whether to put an applicant in one payment band or another, or none at all. There is no hearing, and no finding of liability. Some applications have been rejected, and there is no appeal from the assessor’s decision.

The fact that so many women have made an initial application does not demonstrate that they are happy with this scheme or that they accept that it offers a better compensation package than they might obtain in court. On November 16, the majority of members of Survivors of Symphysiotomy (S.O.S.) voted overwhelmingly – not for the first time – to reject it. They have no obligation to accept any offer made under the scheme – they may yet withdraw.

The progress reports indicate that ‘a large number’ of the applications already received are awaiting medical records from hospitals or the preparation of specialist medical reports. This sort of problem was to be expected. Some women, for example, do not have their records because hospitals had levied unaffordable charges to provide them. Better consultation with Survivors of Symphysiotomy would have made this clear and the scheme could have been designed accordingly.

There are about 400 survivors of symphysiotomy known to S.O.S. The women who have not yet made an application may be experiencing related difficulties. How many have the necessary support to travel for medical and legal appointments, gather hospital documentation and so on? It will be very interesting to hear about women’s experiences of compiling and submitting their applications.

For now, the scheme trundles on. But this is not what proper redress looks like.

What’s (Still) Wrong with the Symphysiotomy Redress Scheme (Mairéad Enright)

Previously: What The Man From The UN Said


Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland


Further to journalist Conor Ryan’s story in this morning’s Irish Examiner – in which he revealed for the first time correspondence between religious orders and the State in relation to the indemnity deal and how the Sisters of Mercy transferred 66 schools, worth €412million to a religious trust called Ceist – law lecturer at Kent Law School Mairéad Enright, above, has written her thoughts on the matter.

In Human Rights in Ireland blog, she writes:

“The question of how church institutions maintain control of property which might otherwise be the subject of compensation paid on litigation, or which might come within the ambit of redress schemes, has taken on significant weight in other jurisdictions.

“In the United States, in July, District Judge Rudolph Randa held that clerical abuse victims – the primary creditors of the bankrupt Archdiocese of Milwaukee – could not access $55m which, in 2007, the then Archbishop had placed in a cemetery trust for the perpetual care of the deceased of the Archdiocese.

“The Judge held that any interference with the trust would compromise the constitutional protection for free expression of religion. The former Archbishop, now Cardinal Dolan, maintains that the transfer of this enormous sum was not an attempt to avoid compensation claims.

“In New South Wales and in Victoria [Australia] campaigners have advocated reform of the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act, which the Catholic Church has used to avoid paying compensation in sexual abuse claims. The church has successfully argued, using the so-called ‘Ellis defence‘ – that diocesan statutory property trusts cannot be sued except on property claims. Victims must rely on mediation with dioceses to obtain redress under the controversial ‘Towards Healing‘ scheme and this raises controversial issues of oversight and bargaining power, similar to those which arise on settlement of a lawsuit. (These are just the tactics than can be used to avoid paying out on successful claims. There are other means to avoid claims altogether – statutes of limitation, charitable immunity, and bishops’ invocation of the doctrine of corporation sole among them). To get the full story on redress, we may need to look far beyond the indemnity agreement and its successors.”

Abuse Redress, Property and the Catholic Church in Ireland (Mairéad Enright, Human Rights In Ireland)

Previously: Mercy, Mercy Me

Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Broadsheet

Pic: IntLawGrrls

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Former Senator Martin McAleese, top, in his report on the State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries, concluded that the four orders involved in the laundries he investigated – the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters – were not profitable, as seen in the report’s executive summary above.

Following this report, Mr Justice John Quirke called for a redress scheme to be organised for the survivors.

However, this morning, the Irish Times reports the aforementioned religious orders are refusing to pay, or even contribute, to what’s expected to amount to a €58million scheme.

It is understood the McAleese Report’s conclusion that they were unprofitable strengthens their case in this regard.


In a critique of the McAleese Report, law lecturer Máiréad Enright, wrote:

“Much has been made of the Report’s findings that the laundries, despite large incomes and an unpaid workforce, did not turn significant profits. But, even though the Committee was given full access to Orders’ financial records, this part of the Report consists in very broad statements of accounts (often summaries of income and expenditure over long periods of time) coupled with extracts from statements of  firms of accountants who worked for the Laundries. Where the running costs that eat up the profits of the Laundries are mentioned, they are not detailed. Details of per person amounts spent on maintaining the residents (clothing, food etc) are not provided. No real details are provided of the purposes – e.g. capital expenditure – to which the, perhaps small, profits generated by the Laundries were put. Senator John Crown has noted that the Committee did not conduct any detailed forensic analysis of the financial statements included in the Reports. We need to watch carefully for moments in which the Laundries might be re-spun as charitable enterprises rather than as places of industry and employment.”


In addition Conor Ryan, investigative correspondent with the Irish Examiner, reported two years ago:

“Land surrounding a former mass grave at the largest Magdalene Laundry was quietly sold by the order of nuns who ran it for €61.8 million during the boom.

“The revelation emerged as representatives of the women imprisoned in the laundries met with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

“They discussed the new inquiry and their case for an apology, compensation and a pension for the women involved.

“The Justice For Magdalenes group (JFM) said the €296m made in property deals during the boom by the four orders who ran the laundries must form part of the conversation on redress. “


Given that the redress scheme largely involves payments based on the length of time a survivor spent at a laundry, it is troubling that Ms Enright has also noted that while the McAleese Report suggests 61% of women admitted to the laundries were there for less than a year, the Magdalene women who gave evidence to Justice Quirke’s team gave testimony indicating that this figure is closer to 9%.

How can the State  recompense women based on a potentially flawed report?

What’s Wrong with the Magdalenes Redress Scheme? (Mairéad Enright, Human Rights In Ireland)

Critiquing the McAleese Report (Mairéad Enright, Human Rights In Ireland)

Previously: A Limerick A Day

The McAleese Report: “Incomplete And Not Independent”

Omission To Prey

Lost In The Wash

The Magdalene Report: A Conclusion