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Question

6. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality under the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill 2014, if liaison officers will be appointed to assist Magdalen women in obtaining their enhanced benefits under the Bill; her views that these changes should be welcomed and are vital at the next stage of the Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6975/15]

Answer

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: I thank Deputy O'Sullivan for her question and her interest in this area and the support last night for the passage of the Bill which provides for medical services for women who were in the Magdalen homes. I am very pleased to say the Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill was passed in the Dáil without a division and I thank all Deputies on the opposite side of the House for this. The Bill makes special provision for free access to health services for women who were resident in Magdalen laundries and similar institutions. These women do not have to pay the statutory charge for public acute hospital inpatient services and the ex gratia payments will not be taken into account in the financial assessment of means under the nursing home support scheme.
There is no provision in the Bill for the appointment of liaison officers. Neither was there any such provision in the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 which dealt with women who had Hepatitis C. However, I wish to assure the Deputy that, once the Bill is enacted, there will be a liaison contact in the HSE to assist the women concerned. The unit in my Department has a staff of eight who have been in daily contact over the past year with the women concerned. They have been dealing with them in respect of the ex gratia payments. However, if other issues arise in their contact with the women, they have been helping the women with these as well.
I have also been examining how the women can be supported via an advocacy group. This is not on a statutory basis but on an administrative basis. I will continue to examine this.