Abandoned by an uncaring state

ERIC CONWAY’S letter of December 17th asserts that an ill defined group he termed the “liberal/feminist commentariat” were, amongst other things, “quite sanguine/blase over Bethany House”.

I have been involved in researching inadequacies in the treatment of women and children in the Bethany Home, and in helping former residents to campaign for redress. In connection with this campaign, residents have been supported by the following TDs and senators: Ivana Bacik, Joe Costello, Tom Kitt, Paul Keogh, Michael Kennedy, Kathleen Lynch, David Norris, Caoimhin Ó Caolain, Fergus O’Dowd, Aongus Ó Snodaigh, Tom Kitt and Michael Kennedy. When details were released of 40 graves of Bethany children in Mount Jerome cemetery Dublin in May and a total of 219 in September, the issue was comprehensively covered in the media.

Are the public representatives, journalists and newspapers responsible in Mr Conway’s “liberal/feminist” rogues gallery? If so he might reconsider the point, not least as I believe they also made statements about, or covered, the deaths of children in state care. Mr Conway’s letter suggested they did not.

Mr Conway’s point in relation to 200 children who died in state care can be extended to the abandonment of the state’s duty of care in the past to women and children in institutions run with a religious ethos, such as the Bethany Home. We have moved from stigmatising certain groups, such as unmarried mothers and their “illegitimate” children, to general indifference toward the marginalised poor. This links the eras of religious and secular unconcern toward the vulnerable. In both eras the state had/has a responsibility, a responsibility in relation to the Bethany children that has yet to be officially acknowledged through some form of redress. Though one institution was Protestant the other Roman Catholic, the state appears equally indifferent to the well being of both groups of residents.

Niall Meehan

Faculty Head Journalism & Media

Griffith College

Dublin

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