The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, today announced that the Government has agreed the details on how to implement the recommendations of Judge Quirke for an ex-gratia scheme for the benefit of those who were admitted to and worked in the Magdalen laundries, St Mary’s Training Centre, Stanhope Street and House of Mercy Training School, Summerhill, Wexford. It is expected that the Department of Justice and Equality will be in a position to issue the first offers of payments within the next 4 to 6 weeks.
On the 26 June 2013, the Government accepted Judge Quirke’s recommendation for an ex-gratia lump sum payment scheme for women affected, and also accepted in principle his other recommendations in full, subject to their examination by an Inter Departmental Group. That Group’s report was considered by the Government this week and details of the scheme finalised.
i) Eligible women will be entitled to a “lump” sum payment of between €11,500 and €100,000 depending on duration of stay, with amounts over €50,000 to be paid by weekly instalments as recommended by Judge Quirke. These payments will be tax free. The initial lump sum payments will be made by the Department of Justice and Equality subject to a waiver to be signed by the recipient. Regarding signature of the waiver, a maximum contribution to the cost of legal advice of up to €500 plus VAT will be made by the Department. Where a woman has registered an expression of interest with the Department or submitted an application but has passed away before payment, the lump sum of up to €50,000 will be paid to her estate. Subject to finalisation of the necessary documentation in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, the first payments for applications which have been verified are expected to commence in 4 to 6 weeks.
ii) Eligible women will be entitled to enhanced medical services similar to that available to the holders of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 card. This will be provided through the Department of Health and will require legislation to implement. The Department of Justice and Equality will work with the Department of Health to ensure early enactment of the necessary legislation.
(iii) Judge Quirke also recommended that eligible women should, in addition to the lump sum payments, receive weekly top up payments, net of existing State benefits*, to bring their income from the State up to €100 if under 66 years of age and to the equivalent of the State Contributory pension (€230.30) if over 66 years of age. For example, a woman already in receipt of the full State contributory pension will not receive any additional payment under this heading. These payments will be tax free and be made through the Department of Social Protection. Additional processing will be required as the amounts have to be calculated on an individual basis taking into account existing payments. The Government have decided that only primary State benefits will be taken into account. These arrangements will require a period of time to put in place but arrears will be paid dating from August 2013.
(iv) No account will be taken of monies already paid under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme to women who went from industrial schools to Magdalen institutions for the period they were under 18.
(v) A number of measures will be taken to protect vulnerable women. As indicated above, all women will be encouraged to take legal advice before signing the waiver. Payments of the lump sum will only be made into an account in the sole name of the recipient. Legislation will be introduced to ensure that in the case of women lacking capacity, a court can appoint a person to act on behalf of that woman taking into account her wishes.
Speaking today, Minister Shatter said “I am delighted to be in a position to announce approval of the details of the scheme. Since I have taken up office as Minister for Justice and Equality, it has been one of my priorities to address the hurt felt by women who were in Magdalen laundries. As a result we have had the McAleese Report documenting the facts about Magdalen laundries and the Quirke Report on the establishment of an ex-gratia scheme and a comprehensive range of supports for the women involved. This week, the Government agreed the details of its implementation.
“To avoid any unnecessary delay my Department has already been active in encouraging women to submit applications and around 600 have been received to date. Over 250 of those have been processed to an advanced stage and I would hope to see the offers of payments on these applications issuing in the next 4-6 weeks.
“If an individual accepts the provisional offer, the next step will be a formal offer subject to the signature of the waiver. Once the waiver is signed and returned, the payment of the lump sums can be made.”
Full details of the scheme will be made available on the Justice website in the coming days; www.justice.ie