Former residents of Church-run institutions will not have to prove hardship

The Irish government is to provide lump-sum compensation to former residents of the Magdalene laundries.

The moves comes after an independent report released in February found “significant” state involvement in the religious-run institutions, where young women, many placed by the state, worked without pay. The report found that many former residents reported feeling stigmatised as a result of spending time in the institutions.

Under the new compensation plan, Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said approximately 600 women were expected to qualify for the payments, which would not be “dependent on proof of any hardship, injury or abuse”.

While Mr Shatter said it was impossible to give an accurate prediction of total costs as the number of validated applicants had yet to be established, “my officials estimate the total cost of these lump-sum payments would be in the range of € 34.5 million to € 58 million” (£28.9m to £49.5m). The maxium payments will be of €100,000 for those who spent 10 years or more in the laundries.

Following an independent report by Senator Martin McAleese published earlier this year, the Conference of Religious of Ireland expressed the hope that it would “lead to reconciliation and healing for all involved in this very complex matter”.

The independent report said about 10,000 women and girls had worked in Magdalen laundries since 1922, with more than a quarter of referrals made or facilitated by the state. The report also said significant numbers were placed there by their families. Just more than 60 percent of women spent one year or less in the laundries.

The laundries were operated by four religious congregations: the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Religious Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of Mercy. Government officials said they expected the congregations to contribute to the compensation package.

In a statement, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge said “we are willing to meet any woman on an individual basis who has spent time with us and, if they wish, to work with them in the interest of reconciliation and healing.” The congregation said it was seeking clarity on how the report will apply to “women who continue to reside with us.”

The Sisters of Mercy also welcomed the government’s plan and committed to assisting former residents to use the order’s archives to help establish the time they lived with the order.

In a statement the Good Shepherd Sisters expressed the hope that the plan would help bring “healing and reconciliation for the many women who spent time in our care and in the care of others.”

“We will also be more than willing to continue to meet women who had spent time with us, on an individual basis, the Good Shepherd Sisters said.