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Bethany Home survivors call for cross-border investigation into neglect

The survivors are looking for their cross-border experiences of neglect to be investigated under the Joint Ministerial Council of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin
Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

BETHANY HOME SURVIVORS have travelled with former residents of Wicklow’s Westbank Orphanage to Northern Ireland to ask for their cases to be investigated.

They describe themselves as “cross border Protestant orphans” and say they were “unwanted, abused and exploited in Northern and Southern Ireland”.

Today, they are meeting with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Ministers and MLAs in Stormont on the issue.

Investigation

They say they want their cross-border experiences of exploitation, neglect and abuse investigated under the Joint Ministerial Council of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

They are also calling for answers and redress. Bethany Home closed in 1972, while Westbank closed in 1998. The men and women say that they were mistreated and physically abused in the homes, and that they have suffered long-term effects because of this.

Some have also had issues with recovering documents relating to their identities.

Cabinet is expected to make a long-awaited decision on redress for Bethany survivors tomorrow. Derek Leinster of the Bethany Survivors Group told TheJournal.ie that the group are “now hoping [the Government is] going to do the right thing”.

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The bodies of 219 Bethany children lie in unmarked graves in Dublin’s Mount Jerome cemetery, and the Bethany Homes survivors are calling for a memorial to be put up in their name.

According to the groups, the Irish state argues that their unwed mothers abandoned them privately and voluntarily.

The combined Bethany Westbank delegation meeting the DFM and other representatives are: Victor Stevenson, Westbank (mother from Cork, adopted in NI); Patrick Anderson McQuoid, Bethany, Smiley’s Home (mother from Wicklow, adopted NI); Eileen Macken, Bethany, Kirwan House (mother from NI); Betty Honan, Kirwan House (mother from NI, sister in Bethany), as well as Pamela Dooley, UNISON and Chair of NI Committee of ICTU and Niall Meehan, secretary, Bethany survivors.

Read: Cabinet ‘to make decision on Bethany Home next week’>

Column: I’m a Bethany Home survivor and, at 74 years old, I’m finally happy>

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