The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan has briefed the Cabinet on proposals to implement the Ombudsman's recommendations on addressing the maladministration of the Magdalene Redress Scheme.

Peter Tyndall's recommendations which were published five months ago set a number of timelines for the application of "a fair and robust qualification process".

Minister Flanagan's announcement follows a highly unusual meeting last week between the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Charlie Flanagan and Peter Tyndall, which the minister's statement describes as "constructive and detailed".

Responding to a question from RTÉ News, Mr Tyndall's spokesman said that normally the Ombudsman reports to an Oireachtas Committee and that he was unaware of any Taoiseach meeting the Ombudsman about the implementation of an investigation report.

In his statement, the minister recalls that the Ombudsman had made four recommendations last November following complaints from 27 women whose applications for help had been rejected by his Department which administers the Magdalene Redress Scheme.

Mr Flanagan said an independent Senior Counsel, Mary O'Toole has been asked to review disputes over applicants' length of stay in a Magdalene Institution.

In November, the Ombudsman recommended that the Department should provide his Office with its proposal for this review within 6 weeks and, ultimately, a report on the outcome within six months. That would be due in less than six weeks' time.

Mr Flanagan's statement adds that Ms O'Toole will also advise on assistance to be given to applicants who lack the mental capacity to accept an award. 

The Ombudsman's report noted that, when the scheme was established in 2013, there had been some forty women in this category, but that only 18 were still alive last November.

At that time, Mr Tyndal's report said the Department should work closely with the Courts Service to ensure that any applications to make any of these Magdalene women Wards of Court are processed "in a timely and sensitive manner with paramount consideration given to the needs and circumstances of each of the women concerned".

On the Ombudsman's third recommendation that eligibility for the scheme be reviewed, Minister Flanagan said this "will be taken forward on an interdepartmental basis, chaired by the Department of An Taoiseach".

The minister promised that the review group will be established within days and that its report will be considered by Government in due course.

Last November, Mr Tyndall recommended that, where there is evidence that a woman worked in one of the twelve laundries listed in the Scheme, but was officially recorded as having been "admitted to" a training centre or industrial school located in the same building or located on the grounds of one of the laundries, the Department should fully reconsider their application with a view to admitting them to the Scheme.

The Ombudsman said the Department should commence these reviews immediately and provide an estimate of the numbers involved and the anticipated timeframe for completion.

The Ombudsman's final recommendation was that lessons should be drawn from this case of what he judged was maladministration.

He said this should be done in order to provide guidance on the development and operation of future redress schemes. Mr Flanagan says this matter will be examined in consultation with his cabinet colleagues, including the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Flanagan underlined the Government’s commitment to honour the commitments they have made to the former residents of Magdalene institutions. 

He said that, since 2013, 691 applicants have received €25.9m in lump sums redress under the Ex Gratia Magdalene Laundries Restorative Justice Scheme, along with other enhanced Health and Social Protection supports which a number of others have also received.

Tonight, the Ombudsman welcomed what he described as progress on implementing his recommendations published last November on addressing the maladministration of Restorative Justice Scheme for Magdalene women here.

However, Peter Tyndall said it is essential that there is an early and full outcome to the dispute and that the women do not face further unnecessary delay.

Mr Tyndall said the Government had signalled its agreement to three of the report's recommendations and had been considering the fourth dealing with eligibility for admission to the scheme.

The Ombudsman described today's announcement by Mr Flanagan as "a significant step forward for the women who were so badly treated when in the Magdalene laundries". 

He added that the Ombudsman's Office expects to be fully engaged with the work of the Senior Counsel, Mary O'Toole, and the interdepartmental working group which is to review the recommendations as agreed at the meeting with the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice and Equality.