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Terms of reference for mother and baby homes inquiry are unacceptable

We, the undersigned, express serious reservations about the recently published draft terms of reference of the forthcoming southern Irish inquiry into mother and baby homes, and related matters.

We have every confidence in the capacity of the distinguished members of commission to investigate. We are not confident that the commission will be allowed to examine lives blighted outside institutions where unmarried mothers were forced to abandon their children.

The terms of reference mention ‘exit pathways’ from mother & baby homes. It is not clear if such pathways will lead up the entrance path of similarly dysfunctional institutions to which abandoned children were sent.

For example, some of the undersigned were sent from Bethany Home to the Westbank Orphanage in Wicklow that had the same Protestant fundamentalist ethos as Bethany. The orphanage had one main purpose: to raise money for the institution and one main effect: the denial of a right of adoption to most children. Children were paraded in front of gullible but sincere church congregations in Northern Ireland as the south’s poor Protestant orphans. We were in fact exploited unpaid professional orphans, illegally transported back and forth over the border. Some ‘children’ remained in Westbank into their 20s. Many suffered systemic physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

We insist on being allowed to tell the Commission of Inquiry our experiences. If we succeed, and lives of children who arrived from Bethany are examined, that will leave those who arrived from other ‘pathways’. They arrived sometimes directly from maternity hospitals or from the Braemar House Mother and Baby Home Cork which (unaccountably) is not listed in the terms of reference. Their situation too should be investigated. Similarly, the exit pathway from the Church of Ireland Magdalen Home to its associated Nursery Rescue Society, that farmed out children from the age of three, should also be examined.We demand to know why we were abandoned and ignored by regulatory authorities.

Colm Begley (Westbank Orphanage, Bethany Home)

Clocha Liatha, Carrigadrohid, Co Cork

Helen Fitzpatrick (Westbank Orphanage

313 North Bellevue Ave, Langhorne, PA, USA

John Hill (CofI Magdalen Home, Nursery Rescue Society)

Rose Vale, Stedalt

Stamullen, Co Meath

Derek Leinster (Bethany Home)

42 Southey Rd

Rugby, Warwickshire, England

Joyce McSharry (Bethany Home)

15 Ashgrove, Baskin Lane

Kinsealy, Co Dublin

Victor Stevenson (Braemor House, Westbank Orphanage)

32 Rathmore Avenue,

Bangor, Co Down

Andrew Yates (Bethany Home, Westbank Orphanage)

22 Saratoga Avenue Newtownards, Co Down

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