Discrimination by the State

I AM reliably informed that the reason the Government will not allow former residents of the Protestant evangelical Bethany Home to apply for redress is because the coffers are bare.

It was for the same reason that Magdalene laundry residents were excluded (and still are) from the Redress Scheme. However, because the UN Committee on Torture found recently that the State was culpable in the treatment of these women, Senator Martin McAleese has been charged with discovering what we already know (though doubtless he will find out more and that is to be welcomed). Hopes have been raised that he will provide a just outcome that the Government will accept.

That still leaves the mainly Protestant former residents of the Bethany Home. Why can Senator McAleese not look at that issue too?

219 Bethany children are buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery. Almost two thirds are there because the state’s deputy chief medical adviser recorded in 1939 that it was ‘well known’ that ‘illegitimate children are delicate’, before going on to attend a meeting at which Roman Catholics were excluded. Protestants and Catholic children could die in equal number, but separately, according to this bureaucrat and son of the Bishop of Killaloe.

Clearly, the dead children are of as little import now as when consigned to their final resting place. Dead children can’t talk, while those who survived are as illegitimate today in their efforts as the day they were born. Why not let the senator at it? Is it, to paraphrase Ali G, ‘because they is Protestants’? I did not think so while Bethany residents waited with Magdalene counterparts and while, historically, Protestant and Catholic women and children were treated equally badly. But equal dissatisfaction turns now into unequal treatment. It is a surprising allegation to make, considering the faces around the cabinet table, but the Irish State is guilty today of discrimination against Protestants.

Niall Meehan

Faculty Head Journalism & Media

Griffith College

Dublin 8

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