Calls to include Protestant orphans in inquiry

Protestant children who were sent to the Westbank orphanage in Greystones, Co Wicklow, 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.

Calls to include Protestant orphans in inquiry

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

Former residents from Westbank, along with residents from other Protestant Dublin orphanages and mother and baby homes, including the Bethany Home in Rathgar, the Church of Ireland Magdalen Home (Denny House) on Leeson Street and the Nurse Rescue Society in Templeogue, are all asking that these institutions be included in the upcoming mother and baby homes’ commission of investigation.

As part of the Bethany Survivors’ submission to the Minister for Children, Charlie Flanagan, the Bethany Survivors’ group included testimony from Colm Begley who 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.

In the submission, Colm Begley wrote that local primary school accepted these name changes but Newpark Comprehensive in Blackrock refused to.accept the surnames.

“It was only then that some children found out they were related to each other as sisters/brothers, etc. They would have found out as they entered the exam hall on the day to sit the entrance exam. Children were just told, write this new name on the top of the paper.” he said.

He described how food, clothes and toys were donated but wrote they “never saw much of the food”.

“We lived mainly on Heinz baby food, that was donated by Heinz, and similarly donated Bolands’ bread, that Ms Mathers said was for her dogs. Ironically, we were often so hungry we ate dog biscuits,” he said.

“Children were roared and shouted at, hit with clothes hangers and electrical cables. Religious people came and went unchecked and children were abused. Boys and girls were mainly kept until 18, but others stayed until their late 20s. These then sometimes preyed on the younger children and sexually abused them,” he said.

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