Bethany survivors: It’s discrimination that we are excluded from redress

Survivors of the Protestant-run Bethany Home have claimed it is a form of “discrimination” that they are excluded from justice or redress granted to victims of Catholic-run institutions.

Some of the small number of living survivors met with a cross-party group of TDs at the Dáil yesterday to present their case for redress scheme similar to what is being offered to Magdalene survivors.

They are also seeking a memorial for the hundreds of women and babies who went through the homes, and an apology like the one delivered to the Magdalene women by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last week.

It is estimated that there are just 15 to 20 people who would be eligible for redress from the home and the sums involved would be small.

The Bethany Survivors group said the State had a “definite responsibility” for the Bethany Home and for the children who were “neglected and abandoned because of the actions or inaction of the State”.

The group said 219 Bethany children were buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery between 1922 to 1949 having died of neglect, malnutrition, and conditions associated with poverty.

It said many women were sent to the home by the courts for crimes ranging from petty theft to birth concealment to infanticide.

And they said inspectors covered up what happened “to safeguard the sectarian separation on which the system as a whole was based”.

Derek Leinster, 71, who was born in the home, said: “We want a redress system to recognise our loss. We want the state to stop discriminating against us.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has indicated he will examine the matter but his spokesperson said yesterday that it was a “completely different” to the Magdalene Laundries.

“The arrangements being made for the women who worked in Magdalene Laundries without pay simply cannot be applied to the completely different circumstances applied to the many maternity and infants homes in the State and those resident in them.”

The spokesperson said the home provided a maternity facility, particularly for unmarried mothers. “It did carry out a number of other functions including assisting with women from the criminal justice system but the High Court in 1940 found that 90% of its work was maternity cases.”

Survivor: Patrick’s story

Bethany Home survivor Patrick Anderson:

“My birth mother came from Co Wicklow and entered the Bethany Home in Mar 1947, she was five months’ pregnant. She had me in July and left in me and the home in December.

“I was removed from the birth home and taken to a nurse mother in Roscrea, Co Tipperary. In Apr 1950 I was removed by the Church of Ireland to Dublin where I was examined by the doctor and it was noted that ‘this child came in poor condition with rickets and his lips and cheeks blue’.

“I was adopted in Northern Ireland in 1952 by a farmer and his wife, both aged 51. I was traumatised by the physical, psychological, and emotional experience that up to that young age I had been through.

“When I was 13, my adoptive mother died and I took up most of the cooking and farm work and lived in a tree hut on the farm. At the age of 15 I got a part time job and saved up €12. I got a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool where I slept rough...

“In 1990 ... I found my birth mother’s name, I traced her after a year searching. Through a third party I made contact but she refused to meet me and I was hospitalised after a suicide attempt.

“Shortly afterwards, I got a record of my birth certificate and another one — of a child that my mother had three years after me. I discovered I had a brother who was removed to Utah when he was three months old.

“[When she diedI went to the funeral with two yellow roses — one from myself and one from my brother — my identity was unknown to those there.”

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