‘Scrutinise Protestant mother and baby homes’

Bishop Paul Colton

Church of Ireland Bishop Paul Colton was so moved by the experience of a survivor of the Westbank orphanage that he has called for all Protestant homes to be included in the Mother and Baby Home investigation.

In a letter to the head of the Mother and Baby Home Commission, Judge Yvonne Murphy, Dr Colton said he had been contacted by Victor Stevenson with an enquiry about Cork Mother and Baby Home, Braemar House.

Although the institution was not formally linked to the Church of Ireland, Dr Colton was so moved at a “human level” by Mr Stevenson’s life story, that he has called on Judge Murphy to call on Children’s Minister James Reilly to widen the scope of the inquiry to include Protestant Mother and Baby Homes.

“I have been moved by Mr Stevenson’s quest. He was born in 1959 and I in 1960. Putting myself in his shoes, I would want to know what he wants to know; his search for information has motivated me too at a human level.”

While I understand that it does not fall within your powers unilaterally to add Braemar House to the remit of your investigation, nonetheless I do urge the Commission, in any interim report, to recommend to the minister that Braemar House and other such pan-protestant Mother and Baby Homes be included in the scope of scrutiny of your work,” he wrote.

Dr Colton concludes by stating that the experiences of Protestant people who were resident in Mother and Baby Homes needs to be clarified.

“All of this is worthy of being clarified and established. As a matter of parity and justice for people like Victor Stevenson, I do ask that you urge the minister to add Braemar House and other such protestant homes to the remit of your investigation,” concludes the letter.

Mr Stevenson is a survivor of the Westbank orphanage in Greystones in Wicklow and has been campaigning for the inclusion of all Protestant institutions in the current inquiry.

Currently, the inquiry is only examining one Protestant institution — Bethany Home.

Westbank has been excluded despite survivors of the home stating they were not told that other residents were their brothers or sisters, mainly lived on baby food, and were beaten with clothes hangers and electrical cables.

The Westbank overseeing committee members are still refusing to release records to the former residents or to hand them over to a State agency.

As part of the Bethany Survivors’ submission to former Children’s minister Charlie Flanagan, testimony from Colm Begley outlined how Westbank children all had their names changed with their surnames becoming ‘Mathers’, which was the surname of Adeline Mathers, the woman who ran the home.


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