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Courage required on Bethany

Protestant church leaders have historically looked ‘the other way’, when it came to dealing with the abuse and neglect children were subjected to in their institutions.

Why is this the case? Is it a lack of Christianity, or could it be they feel uncomfortable in the State of Ireland? Are they cocooned in a time-warp with the battles and ignorance of the past?

While writing an article for a national paper, the now retired Archbishop John O’Neill was very concerned Protestant denominations should not say anything that would be offensive to Catholic organisations in relation to the abuse scandals that had come to light. Yet the same archbishop permitted Dr Michael Woods, then Minister for Education, to negotiate behind closed doors with Catholic religious orders, on how to deal with the abuse which had taken place in their institutions. Unfortunately, the Protestant leaders and organisations did not lobby for survivors from their homes. The State had a duty of care to all citizens, and Protestant church leaders had an onus to make sure this responsibility was being exercised. That did not happen.

On being elected Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson went to great lengths to assure RTÉ Religious and Social Affairs Correspondent Joe Little, that Bethany Home would be one of his first “priorities” and survivors would be “honourably” dealt with. Sadly the archbishop’s efforts have been very diluted.

RTÉ Prime Time broadcast The Home the State Forgot in May of this year. It laid bare more of the Protestant abuse scandal, and demonstrated the wrong-doings of the State and its officials, when it came to dealing with Protestant abused children. The broadcast also proved the reason why Bethany Home was not added to the schedule of institutions on the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, was not because it did not qualify, but because the State misused the Act, by agreeing an indemnity scheme with the Catholic institutions. Yet the indemnity should not have had anything to do with the Redress Act, it was not a lawful condition for the qualification of an institution. But due to these actions, Bethany Home has been treated differently.

We would expect little help from a Catholic government, and from a Dáil, where it would be hard to find more than three TDs who were not Catholic. But as survivors who were raised as Protestants, should we not have had the full support of all decent people, as well as our church leaders? However, out of this grotesque mess and shame, one of our main supporters and campaigners is from a Catholic background, they wish to campaign for Bethany, due to the justness of our case. The Bethany Survivors Group have achieved a rare result in Ireland in uniting all political parties in wanting justice for survivors.

In contrast, the Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland, and Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke states that Bethany Home has been below his “radar”.

Bethany survivors wait for the Protestant leaders to gather enough courage to conduct a formal service in Mount Jerome Cemetery for the 219 unmarked graves of children who died in Bethany. If our own denominational leaders haven’t got the bravery, or the time, to do this Christian act, could they not request their Catholic brethren to do so?

Derek Leinster
Chairperson
Bethany Survivors Group
Rugby
UK


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