Magdalene survivors should get redress this year according to a solicitor advising some of the women

Thursday 18 April 2013 23.50
Members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group who met with Judge John Quirke
Members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group who met with Judge John Quirke

Hundreds of survivors of Magdalene Laundries should begin to receive redress from the State this year, according to a solicitor advising some of them.

Frank Buttimer revealed that 500 women have already applied to have their claims considered by Mr Justice John Quirke.

The Government has asked Judge Quirke to devise a compensation scheme.

Mr Buttimer made his remarks to RTÉ News while accompanying some 75 women to a series of meetings with the judge in Dublin today.

The women had come from many parts of the country to participate in the day-long consultations.

Mr Buttimer said the meetings were part of an information-gathering process during which the women would assess what may be involved in the redress scheme the judge is working on.

The judge would also be able to listen to the women's views in advance of reporting to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter, he said.

Call for income forgone reward

Meanwhile, survivors attending the meetings have called for the State to reward them for income foregone.

They also seek redress for the pain and suffering they endured while they lived in the Laundries, the last of which closed in 1996.

Maureen O'Sullivan, from Carlow, said she was a child slave in the Good Shepherd laundry in New Ross, Co Wexford.

Mary McManus, who lives in Athlone, said she was starved for two years by the Sisters of Charity in Stanhope Street.

Her father had put her and her sister, Kathleen Jenette, into the laundry on the advice of his sister, a nun who said they would receive training.

Ms McManus said they got no training but instead were made to work for long hours in the Sisters of Charity's industrial laundry for two years.

Her sister Kathleen said the worst part was handling sheets from hospitals' operating theatres.

She said they were forbidden by the nuns to speak and that she was too embarrassed to speak when her mother took her out of the institution and returned home with her to their large family.

Mr Buttimer said he agreed with the Taoiseach's comments that the State's response to the Magdalene women should not be exploited by lawyers.

He said he was advising the Magdalene Survivors Together Group rather than representing the women and that the Group was paying for his services.

"I agree it should remain a lawyer-free zone insofar as possible," said the solicitor.

“But the ladies may need some advice because there will be complications."

He said he did not envisage his involvement would be for too long.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for some survivors has criticised Judge Quirke for his handling of the meetings.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Steven O'Riordan of Magdalene Survivors Together said that the women, who come from many parts of the country, had turned up a Dublin venue at 3.30pm as requested.

He said they were left waiting for over an hour-and-a-half before Mr Justice Quirke met any of them.

Mr O'Riordan said one elderly wheel-chair-bound woman was unable to remain awake as she waited her turn.

He said the women were asked about their current circumstances regarding family, work and housing and not about the kind of compensation scheme they wanted.

Mr O'Riordan said that he found this confusing.

Facilitated by the State

A report on Magdalene Laundries, published in February, found the State was directly involved in their running.

It found that just over one quarter of referrals were made by or facilitated by the State.

They were sent there by court order, gardaí, social services or under supervision after leaving industrial or reformatory schools.

An estimated 11,500 women passed through ten institutions between 1922 and 1996.

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee found the environment in the laundries was harsh.

It said the women were involved in physically demanding work, which produced a traumatic and lasting impact on the girls.

Four congregations ran Magdalene Laundries: The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Mercy Sisters, the Sisters of Charity and the Good Shepherd Sisters.