Late last week, ageing survivors of the former residential institution in Rathgar, Dublin, were left devastated after the Government decided there was no basis for redress or issuance of an apology.
However, Derek Leinster, who heads The Bethany Survivors Group, said former residents would be holding talks with their legal representatives next month when they will consider taking their case to the UN.
Mr Leinster, 71, said he and fellow survivors felt “dehumanised” following Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s decision not to introduce a specific redress scheme for them. He criticised the Government’s argument for denying redress — that the institution was a “mother and baby home” — as “complete nonsense”.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Mr Leinster. “The Government is saying they don’t have enough evidence, but we’ve provided them with all the evidence they need that proves the State was responsible for death and neglect at the home. It’s incorrect to call Bethany a mother and baby home, as mothers did not bring their babies home and many children arrived with no mother at all.
“We began campaigning 15 years ago and we’ve been treated like dirt from day one. It’s not acceptable. We feel gobsmacked and dehumanised. We won’t stop fighting. Next month we’ll meet our lawyers and discuss taking the Government to court and, if necessary, the UN. We know we’re right and so do most people in Ireland.”
However, despite ruling out compensation and an apology, Justice Minister Alan Shatter indicated last week the Government was willing to look at developing a memorial and making records relating to the former home available.
Three years ago, 219 bodies of Bethany infants and children — who had died between 1922 and 1949 — were found in unmarked graves in Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery.
The bodies of 28 children who died at the former home, which operated between 1921 and 1972, are still unaccounted for.
It is believed no more than 20 former residents would qualify for redress if a scheme were in place.