The Government has agreed a redress scheme for women who underwent symphysiotomy, the surgical procedure to break the pelvis during childbirth to allow a baby to be born.

The fund for the compensation scheme is €34m and three levels of compensation will be available.

Depending on the severity of the injury, women will receive €50,000, €100,000 or €150,000.

Compensation will be paid on an ex-gratia basis without admission of liability on the part of the State.

It is estimated that around 350 women will be eligible.

The procedure was performed on around 1,500 women between the 1920s and up to 1984.

Minister for Health James Reilly expressed deep and profound regret for the pain and suffering that the procedure caused to many women.

He said that the State Claims Agency will begin accepting applications to the scheme within around eight weeks.

Campaign groups say the women suffered physical and mental health issues after the procedure, including chronic pain, incontinence, difficulty walking as well as sexual problems throughout their lives.

A number of successful High Court compensation cases were taken.

Symphysiotomy was carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda up to 1984, years after it had ceased being performed in other hospitals.

The procedure was replaced by Caesarean Section.

Patient Focus, Survivors of Symphysiotomy Limited and Survivors of Symphysiotomy have campaigned in favour of different approaches to how the issue should be resolved.

A report published on the practice of symphysiotomy today said that an Irish mother with a contracted pelvis at the time did not have the option of limiting her family through artificial contraception.

Professor Oonagh Walsh of Glasgow Caledonian University said symphysiotomy was a clinical response to the legal limitations on contraception and sterilisation for contraceptive purposes.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Health, said this restrictive legislation reflected a predominantly Catholic religious ethos.