As a victim of neglect in the Bethany Home (1941-45) and from unsuitable adoption parents, I have been campaigning for over 13 years to expose crimes against unwanted non-Catholic children. Initially, I was unable to get coverage of the can of worms I was in the process of opening. Our comparatively smaller numbers in the Protestant community and lack of knowledge in society generally meant that we were ignored.
I was initially offered help by two survivor groups, but sadly nothing came of it.
In my desperation I came up with the idea of putting my frustration into a book.
It dealt with my life and how I was affected by secrecy, the absence of care and indifference from the Church of Ireland and from the State. The book was Hannah’s Shame (2005). It was the first book which told the story of Protestant children, warts and all — as one person described it, a sort of Angela’s Ashes for Protestants. The book is used by secondary modern schools, colleges, private schools, and in universities in the UK.
The research for my first book led me to my second, Destiny Unknown (2008).
I came across archival documents that detailed the grotesque lack of care received by defenceless Bethany children, whose only “crime” was to be born unwanted, out of wedlock. The documents showed how the state covered up its own critical reports on Bethany’s own and of nursed out Bethany children.
Sadly I still could not get the Irish media interested.
If it hadn’t have been for Niall Meehan’s research, that showed a link between high child mortality in Bethany and the state’s indifference, we would not have had media coverage in May and September 2010. However, we were at last on the media’s radar.
However, this group of dead and neglected children did not feature in various official reports, which stated that Protestant children were catered for “privately”. Why not? That was a cop-out. These children were Irish citizens too. I am still one. It is time to treat all of the children of the nation equally.
The current Irish Government is preparing for a general election.
Why not do some good on the way out by recognising the right of former Bethany (and of Roman Catholic Magdalene) residents to claim restitution?
It would help our campaign if people wrote to the Taoiseach demanding this.
Bethany Home Survivors Group