The first lump sum payments to survivors of the Magdalene Laundries are expected to be issued within four to six weeks of forthcoming Cabinet consideration of the matter.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter made the announcement in the Dáil this afternoon.

The Government approved the immediate implementation of cash lump sum payment scheme based on duration of stay in laundries, as recommended by Mr Justice John Quirke, on 25 June.

It also tasked an inter-departmental group with giving further detailed consideration to the steps necessary to implement the recommendations made by Judge Quirke.

Minister Shatter said he has already established a special unit to process applications and to determine whether an applicant resided and worked in an institution covered by the scheme and the duration of their stay, as well as the calculation of the capital sum due to be paid to them.

He said that over 540 applications have been received to date and are being processed.

Payments cannot commence until decisions have been made on the other recommendations.

Mr Shatter expects to receive the report of the inter-departmental group later this week and he will then bring the matter back before the Government for a final decision.

He said he expects the first offers of payments of a lump sum to issue within four to six weeks of the Government decision.

Mr Shatter told the Dáil he met representatives of the four religious congregations concerned in June 2013, along with Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, about a contribution from them to the scheme recommended by Judge Quirke.

He said all four declined to make a contribution following reflection on the matter.

TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace asked the minister if there were any legislative proposals that could be introduced to compel religious orders to make a contribution.

Minister Shatter said he regards it as a particular disappointment that the religious congregations have not agreed to contribute to the fund.

He said there is no legal mechanism to compel them to make contribution and that is why he told them that they have a moral obligation to do so.