Survivors of a Protestant institute for unmarried mothers where more than 200 babies died called today on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to agree to compensate them.
In an open letter to Brian Cowen and the Government, the Bethany Survivors Group said the Republic of Ireland is culpable for scores of the deaths.
It claimed officials ignored high infant mortality rates at the home in the 1930s and instead deflected complaints by turning the issue into a religious squabble.
Derek Leinster, one of the survivors, said the Government had a responsibility to those who were put in the home after taking on extra regulation of Bethany in 1934.
“We demand the rights that should be accorded to all Irish citizens, the right to equality of treatment and the right to redress for failings that are the responsibility of the state,” he said.
“We demand this also for women confined in so-called Magdalene laundries, who also are denied redress by your Government.”
Bethany was a Church and state-run home in Rathgar, south Dublin, open from 1921 until it was closed in 1972.
As well as unmarried mothers and their children, it also took in prostitutes, alcoholics and prisoners and was used as a detention centre for female offenders, non-Catholic children and young people under 17.
Academic researcher Niall Meehan, of Griffith College Dublin, has discovered around 220 unmarked graves for forgotten babies who had died at the Bethany home.
His extensive trawl of cemetery records uncovered the shocking number of infant deaths at the Rathgar institute over a 47-year period.
Lecturer Mr Meehan revealed a total of 219 graves were found at the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross after a trawl of documents from the institution and the cemetery.
They dated from 1922 to 1949 and more than a third of the total, 86, died over a five-year period from 1935. The highest mortality rate was recorded the following year when 29 babies were buried.
Mr Leinster said: “The Irish state is culpable in relation to these deaths. It is also failed in its duty to vulnerable young Bethany children in other ways.”
The letter from the group claimed Bethany facilitated the removal of children from the state into institutions in England, including Barnardo’s, The Salvation Army and Mr Fegan’s Home for Boys.
It also claimed state papers show the Government facilitated the removal of children from Bethany to families in the US in the 1950s and officials guaranteed the babies were white and Protestant.
The letter also stated that some Bethany children ended up in dysfunctional families on both sides of the border.