Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Laundry compensation deal slammed

Survivors of Catholic-run workhouses will be paid up to 100,000 euro, Alan Shatter announced

Survivors of Catholic-run workhouses have threatened to take the Government to the United Nations watchdog on torture over plans to pay some of them as little as 11,500 euro for their detention.

Women detained in Magdalene laundries slammed an offer and criticised the religious orders for not doubling the multimillion compensation package being put forward by the State.

Magdalene Survivors Together warned the Government to go back to the drawing board and take account of the emotional, psychological and physical damage they suffered, as well as loss of earnings for slave labour.

Maureen Sullivan, the youngest known survivor admitted to one of the laundries, claimed the figures "were totted up all wrong". "They need to go back to the drawing board," said Ms Sullivan, who ended up sleeping on the streets in England after she left the laundry in New Ross.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter earlier revealed details of the redress scheme, as recommended by retired High Court judge John Quirke. "Today is about justice," he said. "Crucially, payment of these sums of money is not dependent on proof of any hardship, injury or abuse."

Any woman who spent three months or less in a laundry or workhouse will receive a lump sum payment of 11,500 euro, and those who spent a year in a laundry will be paid 20,500 euro. The figure increases to 68,500 euro to women who were incarcerated for five years and will be capped at 100,000 euro for women who were in a Magdalene laundry for 10 years or more. A one-off payment of up to 50,000 euro will be made, with an annual payment calculated from the remaining sum, which would be paid weekly.

But Steven O'Riordan, director of the survivors group, said all those detained deserve a basic payment of 50,000 euro for the emotional and psychological damage suffered, plus loss of earnings, all to be paid in one lump sum.

"Ultimately the option is going back to the United Nations," he said. "There are more women after coming forward, there are more women out there, and it would appear the more women we meet the worst the stories get. So I think the women have an extremely strong case in terms of breached of human rights, constitutional rights and certainly we will be looking at the slave labour aspect. A lot of the women were aged between 12 and 16 and were denied a right to education, freedom of movement and liberty."

Ms Sullivan, 60, said she and others were forced to work from morning till night, washing floors from 7.30am, based in a laundry throughout the day, and then making rosary beads at night. "I think Taoiseach Enda Kenny forgot about his 'dawn of the day to the dark of night' comment as he cried during his apology to us," she added.

The minister said the cost to the state for the redress scheme could be in the region of 34.5 to 58 million euro.

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