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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Mother and baby home activist refuses to join selection panel for survivors' forum

Derek Leinster said that he believes that instead, Bethany Home survivors should be given redress before many of them die.

Image: Derek Leinster

A MOTHER AND baby home activist has refused to join a selection panel for a forum for survivors as he fears that it will only delay Bethany Home residents getting redress.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, which is headed by Minister Katherine Zappone, invited Derek Leinster to join a selection panel for a collaborative forum for former residents of mother and baby homes and related institutions.

The forum emerged following talks between Minister Zappone and former residents of such homes, and is separate from the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. It has been set up to represent the interests of the survivors and it will involve sub-committees. A report will be presented by the forum after six months.

It’s understood that the Minister asked Leinster to join in the selection panel because she was aware of his work campaigning for Bethany Home survivors. The Bethany Home was run by evangelical Protestants, and based in Rathgar in Dublin. Death records show that young babies at the home died from conditions such as marasmus (malnutrition), and survivors say they suffered from neglect.

The selection panel which Leinster was asked to join will select members of the collaborative forum, who will use the forum to address matters of concern to them.

He said that if he went on the selection panel, he wouldn’t have been able to represent Bethany Home survivors.

‘An insult’

Leinster has turned down the offer of joining the selection panel, telling that he believes the forum is for people who have not “made their case” regarding their experience at mother and baby homes – unlike Bethany Home survivors.

“As far as the Bethany Home is concerned, to be on this forum would be an insult,” he said, because the Mother and Baby Homes Commission found in its second interim report that Bethany survivors have a strong case for redress. They had been turned down for redress by the government.

Leinster fears that survivors will die before the Mother and Baby Homes Commission presents its final report to government.

“There is no need to waste another couple of years to look for stuff to make that case,” said Leinster of redress for Bethany Home survivors. “We’ve given the same information we have given to the commission which a high court judge has gone through [for the interim report]. Why would we go looking for information to make this case when it’s already there.”

“I would be betraying what I am fighting for for the last 20 years if I was to go on it,” he said of the selection panel.

I’ve been fighting to get justice while we are alive. There are very, very few of us left. Many of us are very old now.

In a message to Zappone, Leinster said he thought the forum was a case of “delay, delay, delay” and said “enough of talking, we want to see justice now”.

However, he also said he is not annoyed with the forum being set up, but that it is “not taking care of people who have made their case”.

“We’ve made our case – we don’t wish to be dragged on any longer,” he said.

He also criticised the lack of recent comment from Protestant leaders in Ireland about what happened in Bethany Home.

“They are looking the other way,” he said.

Over 270 Bethany Home children to date have been discovered to be buried in paupers’ graves at Mount Jerome in Dublin’s Harold’s Cross. Bethany Homes Survivors Group is to put the names of the children on a new memorial at Mount Jerome cemetery on 29 June this year.

It will be an addition to the first memorial which was raised in 2014. Both have been funded by the State.

In 2014, a document was released which showed that some children at the home died of conditions such as marasmus (malnutrition); convulsions; ‘delicacy’; meningitis; German measles; syphilis; ‘general debility’; and heart failure.

Read: Dead from malnutrition and heart failure: 58 more children identified in unmarked graves in Dublin cemetery>

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