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Magdalene Laundry survivor (80) awarded settlement for unpaid work

AN 80-YEAR-OLD woman who worked in a Magdalene Laundry for six years from the age of 11 has won her battle for compensation. 

Mary Cavner, who now lives in the UK, worked at the Good Shepherd’s Convent in Co Cork following her father’s death. 

Speaking to the BBC previously, Cavner said it was a shock being back in the outside world after leaving the Laundry, adding that “it really does affect you”. 

News of the award was first reported by the Press Association. The amount was granted for unpaid work during her time at the laundry, the news wire service reported.

BBC has reported that the figure awarded is €76,000. 

In February 2013, then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a State apology to the women impacted by the Magdalene Laundries. 

Cavner had applied for the Irish government’s Magdalene Laundries scheme in 2013 on the basis that she had worked at one of the laundries. 

However, she was told the one she worked at didn’t fall under the records, according to her solicitor Chun Wong, who spoke on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One. 

Cavner then made a complaint to the Irish Ombudsman in 2016. 

In November 2017, the Ombudsman published a report regarding the scheme, in which it recommended that the scheme be extended. That recommendation was adopted by the Irish government in November 2018. 

Cavner reapplied under an extended scheme in 2018. 

“It wasn’t until May 2019 that Mary was finally given an award under the extended scheme,” Wong said. 

Wong said that she hopes Cavner’s case will help other women in similar situations. 

“Mary has had a very, very supportive family who have helped her every step of the way. She’s had access to legal representation, which a lot of women don’t have,” she said. 

When asked how Cavner is feeling following the news of the compensation, Wong said “it’s still a bit surreal for her and her family”. 

“It’s been very emotional, the journey … she’s spent longer fighting the Irish government than she had been in the Magdalene Laundry,” she said. 

Wong added that Cavner was “never sure if she would ever see the compensation”. 

“Her fear was always she would die before she got a penny of the money due to her,” she said.

“It’s never been about the money for Mary because no amount of money is ever going to be able to compensate her for the trauma that she went through as a child, but it’s about calling the Irish government to account.”

In a statement to TheJournal.ie,  Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said: “Mary Cavner and other women who worked in Magdalene Laundries have waited a long time to receive redress. 

“I very much welcome the decision of the Department of Justice in relation to Mary’s case and in the cases of other women who worked in Magdalene Laundries but were resident in adjoining institutions.”