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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019
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Bethany Home survivors 'shocked' to receive first letter from a Taoiseach 'in 20 years'

The group, who all lived in the Protestant mother and baby home, hope the letter will lead to some progress in their case.

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SURVIVORS WHO WERE born in the Bethany Home were “shocked” to receive the first letter from a Taoiseach’s office in 20 years of campaigning for redress.

Derek Leinster of Bethany Home Survivors group told TheJournal.ie that he has written regularly to the Taoiseach but up until now has not received a reply from the office.

Leinster has spoken out about the shocking history of the home, including how the unmarked graves of over 300 children were discovered in Mount Jerome cemetery. The evangelical protestant home on Orwell Road in Rathgar saw children born there die of malnutrition, syphilis, heart failure and other diseases. Many of the children were subsequently adopted, and survivors say they suffered neglect in the home. 

Despite many years of campaigning, the survivors have not received any redress. Leinster says they fear that aging survivors will continue to die before they get justice for what they suffered.

“I was very shocked. I couldn’t believe it because we only ever get a letter saying ‘thank you, we have received your email,’” he said of this latest letter. ”I could actually repaper the whole of Leinster house with [the other letters]. I’ve had that many over the years.”

This new letter was sent by the office of the Taoiseach and signed by the assistant private secretary to Leo Varadkar.

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However, Leinster said while he was happy he received the letter, he wasn’t necessarily happy with its content. In the letter, the Taoiseach’s assistant secretary draws Leinster’s attention to a collaborative forum involving representatives of former residents of mother and baby homes and Minister Katherine Zappone.

Leinster had previously refused to join a selection panel for that survivors’ forum.

Dressing down

Leinster said he believes he may have written to the Taoiseach giving him a “dressing down” about Zappone’s recent visit to Boston. Leinster has been critical of the time spent investigating the Tuam burial cases when those who lived in the Bethany Home have been refused redress. He believes the survivors have been ignored.

He said he is worried the home will continue to be ignored, saying that the survivors watched as redress was given to other homes – mainly Catholic – throughout the years.

In a reply to the Taoiseach, Leinster writes:

Although the Bethany Home victims have suffered the same horrific abuse, neglect, separation from their families and being ‘sold’, that many of the other institutions have suffered, the difference is that the Bethany home victims had no representation and nowhere to find any. This was looked on as a Catholic Issue and not a Protestant one! The Protestant Church leaders abandoned their duties to the Protestant victims. The State aided them in doing that.

Leinster said that he believes Varadkar “will stand out on his own as he’s the only one who has done it – he has actually seen, hang on a minute there is something going on here, something that isn’t fair”.

He said that “hopefully [Varadkar is] going in a better direction” to previous Taoisigh in terms of getting redress for Bethany Home survivors.

Leinster said of Varadkar: “The message we want to get out to him now is we want action.” 

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He said that he has given the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation his 20 years of research into the Bethany home and he hopes to see it acted on. 

“But I haven’t taken a place in the [survivors'] forum because I do not wish to be aiding and abetting a further delay to us getting justice – we don’t have time for that, said Leinster. “The next step is to keep pushing.”

A memorial to children who died in the Bethany Home and buried in unmarked graves was unveiled in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin in 2014. 

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