Four congregations say they are willing to assist in all other aspects of recommended package
The four religious congregations that ran the Magdalene laundries have told the Government they will not make any financial contribution to the multimillion-euro fund set up to recompense former residents.
The Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters have informed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in recent days that they will not pay into the fund, which could cost up to €58 million.
However, it is understood they have said they are willing to assist fully in all other aspects of the package recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke in his recent report, including the assembly of records and looking after former residents who remain in their care.
A spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said he was “disappointed” with the decision of the four orders not to make a financial contribution.
He will brief his ministerial colleagues about the situation at the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning.
Three of the four orders contacted through a spokesman were not prepared to make any comment at this point in time.
The Government announced the scheme last month after Mr Justice Quirke had conducted an examination of the various options to compensate the women who lived in the laundries, many of whom are now elderly.
The minimum payment was €11,500 for women who spent three months or less in a laundry and the maximum approved was €100,000 for those who were residents for 10 years or more.
Groups representing the women argued that higher awards should have been made available to those who had been long-term residents.
There was no onus on any applicant to show they had suffered hardship, injury or abuse. Some 600 women are reckoned to be eligible. The scheme is expected to cost between €34.5 million and €58 million.
When the scheme was announced, Mr Shatter said taxpayers expected the four religious orders to share the burden and make a contribution to the scheme. He would not be drawn on the amount he expected them to contribute.
The scheme follows on from a full apology on behalf of the State made to the survivors by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this year, in which he said that nobody should have been subjected to the conditions they endured.
That apology came in the wake an investigation by former senator Martin McAleese into the running and conditions within the laundries which were in operation for the best part of a century.
The report also established that the State had played a significant role in the continued operation of the laundries.
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Labour TD, Eamonn Maloney, said he did not accept the finding in the report on the laundries by Martin McAleese that they did not make money from the free labour of women and girls who worked in them.
“They did make money, they made lots of money,” he said during Dáil statements on the report, adding that most commercial laundries in the 1940s and 1950s closed because of competition from the Magdalenes.
“Not only has the church as yet to apologise for their role in operating these prisons, they do also have a role — because they made money — in compensating people,” he said.
The Dublin South West TD added that politicians must not be afraid to “stand up and say this”.
The Government has so far refused to say what contribution, if any, it will seek from the orders.
Last Friday, Ms Lynch said the question of what would be considered a fair contribution was “debatable” and she did not want to go into it at this early stage.
“The mistake that was made with the industrial schools was that the deal was done in advance of knowing what the final cost would be,” she said.
“That was a major flaw in that process. And we don’t intend to make those same mistakes again.”
Fine Gael TD Joe O’Reilly there was “no avoiding the fact that the religious orders will have to make a contribution to the final fund”.
During last night’s Dáil statements, he said that in many cases, the orders involved have to pay for nursing home fees and the expensive care of their elderly demographic, and that should be taken into account.
“But where there are assets and where there is a capacity to pay, it would be cathartic and it would be part of a recovery process for the religious orders — and a very practical identification with the survivors if they made a financial contribution,” said Mr O’Reilly.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said it was “not sufficient that they make no input into it”.
The four congregations which were referred to in the McAleese report on the laundries are the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; the Sisters of Charity, which had assets of €33m in 2009; the Sisters of Mercy, which has a portfolio of assets of €1.8bn; and the Good Shepherd Sisters which, in 2009, had €16.8m worth of financial assets.
via Clerical Whispers.
via Clerical Whispers.