The Government is to give effect to Judge John Quirke's recommendation that the special medical card be awarded to survivors of Magdalene Laundries and similar institutions.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that under legislation before the House, the Magdalene women would receive medical services equivalent to those provided to the holders of the unique Health Amendment Act Card for victims of Hepatitis C contracted from blood products.

The minister was speaking on the second stage of the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill 2014.

Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesman Niall Collins said the proposals as outlined did not fully reflect those recommended under the Quirke scheme, which included full pension rights and an enhanced medical card.

He said this was a shame and a lost opportunity, given the indefinite incarceration and grave breach of the human rights of the women involved.

Minister Fitzgerald said the only service that is not included in the bill relates to "alternative therapies".

The bill does not make any provision for the therapies of homeopathy, angel healing and aromatherapy as there are no proven medical benefits for such therapies, she said.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said it was vital that the experience of the women in the Magdalene Laundries was acknowledged, adding that the assertion by the McAleese report that there was no sexual abuse was at odds with the survivors' testimony.

Mr Justice John Quirke, who leads the Law Reform Commission, was asked by the Government in mid-2013 to propose forms of redress for the Magdalene Survivors.

Medical card guidelines to be revised

The Minister for Health has said that the clinical advisory group on discretionary medical cards will widen discretion further to take into account medical hardship and the burden of an illness on an individual and their family, regardless of income.

Minister Leo Varadkar said that the group will have three months to draw up revised guidelines around which officials and medical officers can decide to disregard the means test.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the number of discretionary medical cards in circulation has already gone up from 50,000 this time last year to 75,000 this year.


Mr Varadkar said the group will stay in place for two years so that it can keep reviewing the guidelines.

Jonathan Irwin, CEO of the Jack and Jill Foundation, said the situation has improved since the minister announced discretionary medical cards eligibility reforms in November 2014.

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Irwin said there is still one major hurdle to overcome, which is that the child should be assessed as an individual in their own right.

Mr Irwin said the current system of means testing parents is "so cruel", as parents who fail the means test feel they have let down their child.