In a written reply to a question from Labour TD Anne Ferris, the Minister said: “I discussed this matter with representatives of the four religious congregations in June 2013. Having reflected on the matter, all four declined to make a contribution. Following a discussion of the issue at Government in July 2013, I wrote to the congregations expressing disappointment that they had decided not to make a financial contribution . . . The congregations responded reaffirming their position.”
He continued: “I wrote to the religious congregations again on this matter two weeks ago following a statement made by the Holy See to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to the Magdalene laundries. I am awaiting responses to this letter.”
Last week, in its report on the Holy’s See’s handling of the clerical child sex abuse issue, the UN committee concluded that Rome should hold an internal investigation into the “religious personnel” who ran the laundries and also ensure “full compensation be paid to victims and their families”.
This call was supported by the Irish Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, its National Board for Safeguarding Children.
It welcomed the UN proposal that the church conduct an internal inquiry into the four congregations concerned and that those found responsible for offences “be sanctioned and reported to national judicial authorities for prosecution purposes”.
The four congregations involved are the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
They ran 10 laundries in this State between 1922 and 1996 when the last one, at Sean McDermott Street in Dublin, closed.
Mr Shatter also said all four congregations were “co-operating” with the Government scheme to compensate the women through “providing all the available records and verifications as requested”.
He added that to date, 680 applications had been received by the scheme, with “over 280 letters of formal offer” made.
So far “144 women have accepted the formal offer and as at the end of January payments issued to over 100 applicants totalling €3.5 million”, he said.