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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 24 October, 2014

Bethany Home survivors to Taoiseach: “Please do not treat us differently”

The group say that they have suffered physical and mental wounds due to their time in Bethany Home.

Derek Leinster at Mount Jerome Cemetery
Derek Leinster at Mount Jerome Cemetery
Image: Prime Time via RTÉ Player

BETHANY HOME SURVIVORS are appealing to the Taoiseach not to treat them differently in their fight for redress and an apology for how they were treated as children.

Derek Leinster, the chair of the Bethany Survivors Group, has written to Enda Kenny about the way he and his colleagues refer to the home, and asking that the State “acknowledges that it shirked its responsibility to care for children in Bethany in the past”.

Apology

The group’s members are calling for redress and an apology for their treatment in the home, saying they suffered physical and mental injuries while in the care of Bethany.

Mothers were sent to the Protestant Bethany Home while pregnant and their children were sent on from the home to Protestant families. Many of these children died from infectious diseases while in Bethany’s care, while others, such as Leinster, were left with lifelong health problems.

The letter, which is reprinted in full below, asks that the Taoiseach and ministers not refer to the home as a ‘mother and baby home’.

As well as an apology and redress, the survivors wish for a memorial to be built at Mount Jerome Cemetery, where the bodies of children from the home were found in unmarked graves.

The letter, which was also sent on to different Government departments, reads:

Dear Taoiseach,

We wish to draw your attention to the inaccurate description used to define the Bethany Home, Dublin, when it is referred to as a ‘mother and baby home’ by yourself and some of your ministerial colleagues.

Ministers for Education, Health and Justice, have historically and continually, deliberately misrepresented the true function of the Bethany by claiming that it was primarily a mother and baby home. However, children who were born in Bethany stayed there; they did not leave the home with their mothers.

While one of its roles was that of maternity, Bethany was much more than simply a mother and baby home. It was very much a children’s home, which not only kept (from birth) children up to the age of four years & more , it also admitted children from institutions all over Ireland. When mothers gave birth in the Bethany, they deserted, and left their children in the care of the State. We note that Section 44 of the Public Assistance Act, 1939, stipulates:

(1) This section applies to a legitimate child both of whose parents are dead or who is deserted by both of its parents or (where one of its parents is dead) by its surviving parent, and to an illegitimate child whose mother is dead or who is deserted by its mother.

(2) Every public assistance authority shall have, in relation to every child to whom this section applies who has not attained the age of sixteen years and is maintained by such authority, all the rights and powers of the parents of such child.

The Bethany Survivors Group holds a great deal of documentary evidence which demonstrates that public assistance authorities funded the upkeep of children in Bethany. In addition, the same authorities were aware that children in Bethany were suffering the most appalling treatment, and, that right up to the level of the Minister for Local Government, the State knew that hundreds of children were dying, due to the dreadful conditions which prevailed in Bethany.

This evidence has been furnished with ministers, and it is imperative that in the interests of justice, that the State now acknowledges that it shirked its responsibility to care for children in Bethany in the past. Former residents of Bethany still carry the physical and mental wounds and injuries, due to the State not exercising its legal right, responsibility, powers and duty to protect them, when they were children, resident in Bethany.

Over the past number of years, the State has confronted its past failings in relation to various other institutions; please do not treat us differently.

Yours faithfully,

Derek Leinster
Chair,
Bethany Survivors Group

Read: Bethany Home survivors: ‘State ignored us as children, and is still ignoring us’>

Read: “Against all the odds, I survived”: Bethany Home survivors tell their stories>

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