On behalf of the people of Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny wished the royal couple and their son well. It was appropriate for him to do so.
What a contrast between life’s expectations for the royal baby and for children born into the Bethany Home in Rathgar. On the day the Taoiseach congratulated the royal couple, the Government ruled out a redress scheme for former residents of the Bethany Home, stating that they “will not be able to access existing compensation funds”.
So much for the Government’s promises during the Children’s Referendum of 2012. Speaking in the wake of that referendum, the Taoiseach said the Government would respond “positively and wholeheartedly” and match the new legislation with appropriate action. Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald referred to the decision of the people as giving a voice to children, and that it was an historic day for the children of Ireland that would ensure their rights were better protected, and was an affirmation that the State recognised the ‘natural and imprescriptible rights’ of children, which would be protected and vindicated by the State. Legislation emanating from the passing of this referendum must be retrospective and embrace children of the past, including those from the Bethany Home, who have been exempted from the Residential Institutional Redress Act, 2002. It is absurd that abused children of Bethany are less cherished by the State than children of similar institutions.
Saying the Government had thought carefully about ruling out a redress scheme for Bethany survivors, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that the former residents would be “disappointed” at the decision.
While acknowledging the attempts that have been made to heal the scars and wounds associated with institutional child abuse — by way of the publication of the Ryan report, the State apology to victims and the setting up of the redress scheme — the continued exemption of former residents of the Bethany Home from a redress scheme is not just “disappointing”, but morally wrong.