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Bethany Home survivors: 'State ignored us as children, and is still ignoring us'

The survivors say that they feel let down by the government as they fight for redress and an apology for what they underwent while at the home.

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

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has shown its support for Bethany Home survivors, calling on the Government to ensure that “justice is served” in the case.

Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha put forward the motion last night, which states that Dublin City Council fully supports the survivors of Bethany Home, Rathgar, who have to date been excluded from both the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme and the Magdalene Redress Scheme, “leaving them in a  state of vulnerability, uncertainty and, in many cases, poverty”.

It continues:

We call on the  Government, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that justice is served to the survivors of  the Bethany Home and that the State affords them the peace and security that they deserve in these, their older years. We support their call for a process of non-adversarial redress and to provide assistance to them in their attempts to access to their  records.

The motion was accepted by the city council.

Derek Leinster, who helped found the Bethany Home Survivors group, told TheJournal.ie that the members are still waiting on a reply from Minister Alan Shatter and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, who they met last month.

The Bethany Home story was featured on the RTÉ show Prime Time last night and Leinster said he was “very pleased” with how the programme went.

The survivors are seeking an apology from the State and redress for what they suffered while in the home. Mothers were sent to Bethany Home while pregnant and their children were sent from the home to Protestant families. Many children died from infectious diseases while in the home, while others, such as Leinster, were left with lifelong health problems.

Bethany Home was rejected from the State’s redress scheme as it was deemed a mother and baby home, but St Patrick’s Institution – which was also a mother and baby home – has been included in the scheme in recent years.

However, the Daughters of Charity, which ran the home, had struck an indemnity agreement with the State and 18 religious orders that the State would pay any redress for abuse suffered by people in care of the orders. Homes run by these Catholic orders are covered by the redress scheme.

Leinster said that “just because we are a minority doesn’t meant it is right”, referring to the fact that the home is a Protestant one and all the other homes included were Catholic.

The State ignored us as children and they are still ignoring us today as adults and that surely cannot carry on.

Leinster said the survivors are hoping the case will move forward and will not stall, and that the Church of Ireland will support them in their efforts.

In 2007, a  Freedom of Information request revealed that the State was involved with Bethany Home.

Redress

The survivors want to see the situation “move a lot quicker than what has been happening”.

“At the moment we seem to be going along and sleepwalking,” said Leinster.

It just isn’t good enough. A lot of our people are really old now. That redress – we want them to have it while they are alive. Each month that it passes there are more and more of our people passing on.

Leinster’s own mother is 90 and has recently suffered a stroke. He says an apology and redress “could never put it right but obviously it softens the blow”.

As well as redress and an apology, the survivors are seeking a memorial in Mt Jerome ceremony where children from the home are buried in unmarked graves.

Leinster thanked all those who helped the survivors get to where they are, including Niall Meehan and Victor Stephenson, as well as fellow survivors.

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

Read: ‘Mixed feelings’ as Bethany Home survivors meet Shatter>

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