Written answers

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Department of Education and Science

Departmental Correspondence

9:00 pm

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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Question 381: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide details of her intended response to a letter from an association (details supplied); if she will commit to progressing the issues detailed in this letter and work to encourage a formal response to their calls for an official apology and the establishment of a redress scheme. [17654/10]

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I have responded to the letter referred to by the Deputy on behalf of the Justice for Magdalenes Group. In my response I confirmed that I was aware of the campaign being pursued by the Justice for Magdalenes Group and advised that the position in relation to my Department had been explained both in correspondence with the Group and at the meeting between my officials and representatives of the Group. I noted that the former residents' stories comprise a range of diverse and difficult circumstances from times very much different to those experienced today and that I appreciate the difficulties encountered by these women.

I referred to the provision in section 1(3) of the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002 which provides that an applicant who was resident in an institution and was transferred from that institution to another place of residence which carried on the business of a laundry and who suffered abuse while resident in that laundry shall be deemed, at the time of the abuse to have been resident in that 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 laundry from a State regulated institution. I advised that my Department does not hold information on the number of applications made to the Residential Institutions Redress Board where applicants were transferred from scheduled institutions to laundries. I explained that my Department would provide as much assistance as possible particularly in making information available subject to resource and privacy constraints.

In this context the records held by my Department relate to children who were admitted to Industrial and Reformatory Schools via the Courts. My Department does not generally hold any records in relation to children who may have been otherwise placed in the Industrial and Reformatory schools, e.g. voluntary placements, Health Authority referrals, etc. nor indeed would my Department hold any records in respect of former residents of the remaining scheduled institutions. Consequently, any records which my Department holds could not be relied upon to accurately quantify the numbers involved.

My Department has reviewed the records available in an attempt to identify the incidence of residents being referred to laundries from industrial and reformatory schools. This review identified 261 references of referrals. Of these 3 referrals were to Magdalen laundries (one each to Galway, Limerick and Donnybrook); 95 were to convent laundries, 102 to school laundries and 61 to other laundries. The number of laundries involved is unclear as some locations are listed as school, convent and other laundries.

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