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Parliamentary Questions – 30th November 2017

Below are questions asked in the Oireachtas, relating to Caranua and other areas relevant to survivors

Magdalen Laundries Report

Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Department will accept the criticisms and recommendations of the Ombudsman report opportunity lost into the Magdalen restorative justice scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will implement the Ombudsman’s recommendation to review applications that were refused on the grounds that they had been admitted to a training centre or industrial school located in the same building or attached the grounds of one of the laundries.

Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether it is his Department’s remit to oversee the development of robust guidelines on the operation of future restorative or redress schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 to 109, inclusive, together.

I should firstly say that I am committed to honouring the commitments of then Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the Magdalen women in 2013 and the full implementation of the Magdalen Restorative Justice Scheme introduced for women who were admitted to and worked in the 12 named institutions covered by the scheme.

My Department was entrusted with overall responsibility for implementation of this scheme. I have been assured that the scheme has been operated with compassion and dedication by a team of officials in the Department. It is administered in such a way as to be as un-intrusive as possible and to minimise the input required by eligible applicants.

On 23 November 2017 the Ombudsman published the report of his investigation into the administration of the Magdalen Restorative Justice Scheme. The Ombudsman is critical of the administration of the scheme by the Department of Justice and Equality and believes that it wrongly excluded certain applicants from benefitting from it. I should add that in his report, the Ombudsman acknowledged the complete cooperation of the Department in his investigation.

Attached at appendix 1 to the Ombudsman’s report – available on his website – is my Department’s response to his then draft report. This raised a number of factual, legal and practical issue in relation to his analysis of the operation of the scheme and to some of his recommendations arising therefrom.

In this latter respect, during the course of his investigation, the Department was of the view that the inclusion in the scheme of those applicants whom the Ombudsman believes are wrongly excluded would require either the extension of the scheme as approved by Government, or indeed the creation of a new scheme.

One of the Ombudsman’s recommendations concerns the development of robust guidelines on the operation of future restorative or redress schemes. This recommendation, which was not directed solely to my Department, was accepted by the Department in its response to his draft report. In this respect, the Ombudsman’s recommendation replicates a similar recommendation by the Comptroller and Auditor General in December 2016 in his Special Report no. 96 on the cost of the Commission on Child Abuse, which led to the Ryan Report, and to the consequent Residential Institutions Redress Scheme which are under the auspices of the Minister for Education and Skills. That report is available on the C&AG website  .

Now that the Ombudsman, having taken into account the Department’s views, has issued his final report, the Department will give full and careful consideration to all his recommendations contained therein.

It is important to record here that to date 684 applicants to the Magdalen scheme have received their ex-gratia payments from the Vote of the Department of Justice and Equality at a cost of €25.7m. The terms of the scheme recommended by Justice Quirke included the payment of “lump” sums from €11,500 to €100,000, special access to health care, upgrading of pension entitlements to the full State Pension for those who had reached retirement age and payment of a weekly sum of €100 inclusive of other State payments to others.

The Scheme remains open to new applications.