Thursday, 28 January 2010
Question 12: To ask the Minister for Education and Science if he has responded to correspondence written by a group (details supplied) on the matter of women who were imprisoned in Magdalene Laundries; further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 547 to 550, inclusive, of 19 January 2010, if he has reviewed the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's position on this matter; if he has reviewed his position on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4152/10]
Question 14: To ask the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of new evidence proving the State's complicity in the detention of women in the Magdalene Laundries, he will support extending eligibility for redress to these women. [4230/10]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 14 together.
A response has issued to the correspondence from the Justice for Magdalenes group and my officials have been in touch with the group to arrange a meeting with its representatives.
The residential institutions redress scheme was introduced as an exceptional measure to provide compensation for people who were sent as children to, and who were victims of abuse while resident in, industrial schools, reformatory schools and other institutions in respect of which a public body had had a regulatory or inspection function. The Magdalene Laundries were privately-owned and operated establishments which did not come within the responsibility of the State and were not subject to State regulation or supervision. Accordingly, the laundries do not come within the scope of the redress scheme.
In recognition of the fact that some children were transferred from State-regulated institutions to laundries, section 1(3) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 provides that a child who was resident in a State-regulated institution and who was transferred to a laundry where they suffered abuse while so resident, will be deemed, at the time of the abuse to have been resident in the State-regulated institution. This provision was included on the basis that the State was still responsible for the welfare and protection of children who were transferred to a Magdalene laundry from a State-regulated institution provided that they were not officially discharged from the institution.
While the Justice for Magdalenes group acknowledges that the State did not license, regulate or inspect the Magdalene Laundries, it is calling for a distinct redress scheme for the former residents, including children and adults, on the basis of the State's failure to meet its constitutional responsibility to protect them.
The Justice for Magdalene's group has also raised the issue of girls being referred to the Magdalene Laundries via the criminal justice system. This issue is being examined by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the results of the research so far were outlined by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the replies to parliamentary questions last week, to which Deputy Rabbitte's question referred.
My statement in a letter last September to the effect that the State did not refer individuals to Magdalene Laundries nor was it complicit in referring individuals to them was based on my Department's understanding of the position. This was also the understanding of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Following an inquiry from my Department and contact from others, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform examined the matter and has since confirmed that some women were referred to laundries via the courts system. I accept that this was the position as opposed to the position regarding referrals outlined in my letter of last September. It remains the case that these institutions were not subject to State inspection or regulation.
My officials are continuing to liaise with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding its inquiries and expect to meet representatives of the Justice for Magdalenes group at an early date to discuss the issues raised.