SURVIVORS FROM THE Bethany Home in Dublin have called on the government to provide them with redress for their time in the Protestant-run home, but say they are being given confused messages on the issue.
Bethany Survivors Group Ireland chairperson Derek Leinster said that following this week’s State apology to Magdalene survivors, he “hopes the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter will act on his long-expressed promise to TDs, senators and northern MLAs to give justice to Bethany survivors”.
Alan Shatter’s first response to publication of the McAleese Report was to apologise for the delay in recognising the injustice done to the Magdelen women. We now suffer the same delay. Now would not be too early to give Bethany survivors the same apology and consideration as the Magdalen women.
He also said the Church of Ireland should contribute to the redress. The state’s case is that the home’s residents were there voluntarily and therefore did not qualify for the 2002 Residential Institutions Redress scheme.
In July 2011 about twenty Bethany survivors were encouraged to apply for inclusion in Martin McAleese’s Magdalen inquiry. However, the government did not extend its mandate.
Unmarked graves at Jerome cemetery. Pic: Bethany Survivors Group Ireland/Facebook
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Leinster said that the survivors are being given confusing information from the Government, but are being buoyed by the support they are receiving from political parties, trade unions and others.
“We’re struggling on,” he said. Leinster said there is “no clarity” to the situation, and that while the ordinary people on the street are aware of their situation, as far as the political perspective is concerned, the survivors feel “very, very let down”.
He is to meet with Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald on Thursday week, while TD Joe Costello has also been in touch with them.
Deputy McDonald said she would help the group with their campaign, said Leinster. “I can’t express the reception she gave us. It was an amazing thing. We feel very honoured that we have met such a wonderful person on our cause.” He said that they now have all the political parties’ support on the island of Ireland, as well as the support of the trade unions.
Bethany Home survivors say they satisfy all of the criteria laid down by government for redress. Leinster said the government “will have to realise we are not going away”, and that they are also calling on them to put a memorial in the name of the 219 children buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery.
We want the Taoiseach to apologise for what happened to us. As they have for everyone else. We just want to be treated as Irish citizens. We don’t want one penny more or one penny less.
They also want their records from the adoption agency that looked after them put into a Government office department that would normally deal with those issues.
There is a general feeling of frustration for the survivors, as “most of these people only found out in the latter years” that they had been adopted from the Bethany Home.
Leinster said that their own Protestant churches “have left us down”, and that though the Archbishop of Dublin made a statement on the matter, this only came after they met with him about the issue last week.
We are a minority group of people dumped by our own religious groups and dumped by government.
He claimed they have documents under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that show that some institutions that didn’t qualify for redress did benefit from it. “We’re trying to get documents to anyone who will be interested in looking at them,” said Leinster.
The group met and put their case to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí, earlier this week. “I think he was quite shocked,” said Leinster. “I have taken from it that he was sincere in doing what he can to see if he can help.”
Despite the confusion, Leinster is hopeful.
We will win. The only thing I fear is there’s too many of my fellow sufferers might not live to see it.