The four religious congregations that ran the Magdalene Laundries have announced they will not contribute to the compensation fund for victims.
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, the Irish Times reports.
However the religious orders said they were willing to cooperate fully with other recommendations made by Mr Justice John Quirke.
In his recent report Quirke recommended that the Irish government pay at least €34.5 million ($45 million) in restitution to laundry survivors.
A spokesperson for Shatter said he was ‘disappointed’ with the decision of the religious orders.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called on the four religious orders to “reflect” on their refusal to pay into the. redress scheme.
“I cannot force them to, because the scheme was not designed on that basis,” he said.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“The bottom line is these four religious orders, and the State, were responsible for the effective wrongful incarceration of girls and women who were forced to work for no pay within a brutal regime.
“Agreeing to merely hand over records and look after elderly residents who gave their lives to the laundries falls far short of what is expected by way of a contribution from the religious orders,” the Sinn Fein Deputy added.
Meanwhile controversial Catholic League president Bill Donohue has argued that the laundries were a myth.
“[T]here was no holocaust, and there was no gulag,” he writes in a special report titled “Myths of the Magdalene Laundries.”
“No one was murdered. No one was imprisoned, nor forced against her will to stay. There was no slave labor. Not a single woman was sexually abused by a nun. Not one. It’s all a lie.”
Donohue agreed that the working conditions in the laundries were “harsh,” and that they included “standing for long hours, constantly washing laundry in cold water, and using heavy irons for many hours.”
However he doesn’t believe that qualifies as slave labor.
“Drudgery? Yes,” he writes. “But if this is ‘torture,’ then it is safe to say that millions have suffered this fate without ever knowing they did.”
The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has also reiterated its condolences to the family of Savita Halappanavar on what they call its “devastating personal tragedy” which has “stunned our country”.
Bishops released a statement on the matter this evening, following a meeting in Maynooth of the Standing Committee of the Irish hierarchy.
It focuses on what the conference calls the “equal and inalienable right to life of a mother and her unborn child”.
It said that, in light of the widespread discussion following the tragic death of Mrs Halappanavar and her unborn baby, bishops wished to reaffirm some aspects of Catholic moral teaching.
The bishops’ group said the Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother but that both had an equal right to life.
It also said there was a moral distinction between “the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby” and medical treatments which do not intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn.
The bishops said current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this distinction in practice “while upholding the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn baby”.
Savita death ‘an affront to human dignity’
A Swedish member of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe has described the death of Savita Halappanavar as “an affront to human dignity and a serious form of violence.”
Tina Acketoft, who is Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said in a statement: “Abortion was refused even though the foetus that Savita was carrying did not stand any chance of survival.
“She was left suffering and crying for help until she died. I consider what happened to Savita an affront to human dignity and a serious form of violence”.
She added: “I call on the Irish authorities to take immediate steps to align Irish legislation with European standards and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
“The only way in which this disturbing death can be a little less pointless, is by ensuring that no more woman die in Ireland from being denied legal abortion,” she concluded.
The Council of Europe is the 47-member organisation devoted to the promotion of democracy and human rights and which oversees the European Court of Human Rights.
The Council’s Committee of Ministers is due to examine in early December the government’s latest response to the ruling by the Court of Human Rights which said the Irish state had breached the rights of a woman in the ABC v Ireland case, and which criticised Ireland for not legislating for the X case.
It was in response to the ruling that the government set up the expert group on the abortion question.
The government had committed to sending an update on the findings of the expert group by the end of October, but it has sought an extension of the deadline to the end of November.
The Council of Ministers is due to give its response to the report between 4-6 December, but it is understood they may not be able to give their response since they will only just have received the Government’s update.
The Council of Ministers is officially made up of foreign ministers although the common practice is that, instead, the ambassadors of the member states to the Council of Europe normally issue a response to countries implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
Labour to support Government position in X case motion
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said Labour Party TDs will support the Government’s position when Sinn Féin puts forward a Dáil motion tomorrow calling for legislation to be introduced immediately on the X Case.
In 1992, the Supreme Court’s judgment on the X Case permitted abortion in limited circumstances, where there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Gilmore said he believed Labour deputies will support the Government’s efforts to bring a resolution and legal clarity to this issue.
He added: “This is something that we are not going to leave aside. Doing nothing is not an option on this issue.”
Sinn Féin has said it hopes that all parties will support its motion.
She said it was intended to give a clear public indication that members of the Oireachtas were “prepared to act, prepared to legislate and not prepared to delay any further” on the issue.
Ms McDonald said that for 20 years, there had been a gap in the law clarifying for medical practitioners exactly how the judgment worked out in practice.
She said: “Our fear is that having waited for 20 years, and notwithstanding the latest tragedy and controversy, that the Government will once again run for cover, once again try to push this issue down the road.”
Asked whether Meath TD Peadar Tóibín, who did not sign the motion, would be expected to support it, she said: “It’s a Sinn Féin motion, and of course all members of Sinn Féin are expected to vote for it.”
She said there would be discussions with Mr Tóibín about the issue and that Sinn Féin had taken the view at its last party conference not to opt for a free vote on the issue.
Ms McDonald said they were anxious to see the report of the expert group on abortion, which is being brought to Cabinet next week.
Labour TD Ciara Conway said she wants to assess the Government’s counter-motion regarding abortion legislation before making any decision on how she will vote.
Ms Conway said the Government’s motion would have to be “strong, forthright and definitive”.
In an interview on KCLR 96fm radio this morning Hogan defended his actions saying that he passed on these concerns to the local housing authorities “in good faith” and “without any direction from me or heavy-handedness”.
He told The Sue Nunn Show: “I’ve explained my position quite well, I am at the Ploughing Championships now and I have engagements here so thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my position.”
He then hung up as the presenter sought to question him further on the matter.
She said: “Minister Hogan needs to be informed that discrimination is unlawful including discrimination against members of the Travelling community.
The ineptitude of some front bench part members of FG in particular James Reilly, Phil Hogan, Leo Varadkar and John Perry is a cause for concern among backbenchers.
Speculation is rife that Hogan may have to go.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in New Ross, he defended his decision to write the letter. He said he was entitled to write it.
He had earlier been urged to make a full statement over his apparent intervention in a housing allocation case to prevent a Traveller family from being housed.
The Irish Traveller Movement has expressed concern.
It said it understands that neither Minister Hogan nor Junior Minister Jan O’Sullivan have the legislative functions to impose or intervene in individual cases on accommodation matters.
“We are therefore concerned that in this case involving a family in Kilkenny that Minister Hogan should appear to intervene favourably on a constituent’s behalf, in what could be interpreted as being opposed to the favourable provision of housing to Travellers.”
Ms McDonald held up a copy of the Irish Daily Mail, where the story first appeared, saying Mr Hogan needed to be made aware that discrimination was illegal, including discrimination against Travellers.
Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív said at face value it was a very serious issue.
He said that a minister interfering in a housing allocation process to prevent a Traveller family being housed on the basis of them being Travellers would be “an extraordinary abuse of power”, as well as being illegal.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Ó Cuív called for Minister Hogan to publish the reference that he made to Kilkenny County Council.
A paper published by the bank today sets out the steps which will have to be taken by the present and future Governments in order to comply with the EU fiscal treaty.
It said that while fiscal targets remain on track to 2015, many uncertainties prevail, and budget adjustments will have to be made up to 2020 in order to meet EU targets.
“They project that we will have tough budgets until 2020, what the report doesn’t do is to actually give a figure as to what the level of that adjustment or cutback would mean”, she said
“But it leads us back to the thing we debated very vigorously in the course of the austerity treaty debate and that was to meet the requirements of this treaty you are looking art further cutbacks.”
Ms McDonald claimed that Mr Reilly clearly had a direct conflict of interest, because he has investments in private medicine and nursing homes at a time when public beds were being closed.
She described as a farce the addition by Mr Reilly of extra proposed sites for primary care centres.
Ms McDonald asked whether or not junior health minister Roisin Shortall was aware of the additional criteria, including competition, cited by the Taoiseach.
Mr Kenny insisted that extra proposed sites were added to put pressure on the medical profession to co-operate.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticised the addition of extra primary care sites, including two in the minister’s own constituency, saying that Ms Shortall “plays by the rules, but Minister Reilly doesn’t”.
Mr Adams has previously said the scope of the convention should be widened, and after a meeting of Sinn Fein’s ruling council he repeated calls for it to be an opportunity for major reform.