The Ombudsman has sharply criticised the exclusion of some women who worked in institutions but were not included in the Magdalene Restorative Justice Scheme set up in 2013.

Peter Tyndall was before the Oireachtas justice committee this morning following the publication of his report last year on the administration of scheme.

He said his investigation found that there was "too narrow an interpretation given to the eligibility criteria, which completely ignored the practical reality of the daily life of the women who were, at that time, working in laundries and living in the convents where the laundries were located".

He also disputed the department's argument that the Residential Institution Redress Board had provided redress for some of the women involved, saying that it is possible to distinguish between the different wrongs covered by the redress scheme and those of the Magdalene scheme.

"They were not intended to provide redress for the same things," Mr Tyndall said.

"Women continue to contact the staff in my office and the point they make is this - 'I worked in those laundries. I washed the soiled sheets of the prisoners in Mountjoy jail. The women who worked alongside me have received redress, why have I been excluded?'," Mr Tyndall told members.

Mr Tyndall said his comments were not intended as a criticism of individuals involved in the day-to-day running of the scheme. 

Representatives of the Department of Justice were also before the committee.

A senior official from the department said it is up to the Government to extend the compensation scheme.

Assistant Secretary Jimmy Martin said the department was "very conscious of the advanced age of many of the women concerned...and went to great lengths to make as many payments as possible as quickly as possible".

However, Mr Martin told the committee the department disputed the Ombudsman's view that it has the authority to make payments under the scheme to women who were in another institution on the same campus as one of the 12 named institutions.

"When this was first raised with us in the context of one institution, An Grianan, our response was that we would be as flexible as possible in applying the scheme, but where a person had been admitted to an institution that was regarded in law as a separate institution and was covered by the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme, we did not have the discretion or authority to include them in the Magdalene scheme.

"We said that we would have to go back to Government to get a decision on such a matter," Mr Martin said.