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Campaigner Derek Leinster says Protestant survivors and those living abroad 'not a priority' for redress

Leinster, who was born in Bethany Home in Dublin in 1941, has campaigned for redress for over 20 years.

Derek Leinster, chairman of the Bethany Home Survivors group, at the unveiling of a memorial to over 200 children who died at the institution, at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin in 2014.
Derek Leinster, chairman of the Bethany Home Survivors group, at the unveiling of a memorial to over 200 children who died at the institution, at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin in 2014.
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Archive/PA Images

A LONG-TIME activist has said survivors of mother and baby homes who now live outside Ireland, and those who were born in Protestant institutions, feel they are not being treated as a priority by the government.

Derek Leinster, who was born in Bethany Home in Dublin in 1941, has campaigned for over 20 years for the inclusion of Bethany Home and other Protestant institutions into State inquiries and redress schemes.

Bethany Home was one of the 18 institutions, the majority of which were Catholic, examined as part of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Online meetings are taking place this week with survivors and other interested parties as part of the public consultation process being carried out ahead of the establishment of a redress scheme.

Derek, who lives in England, was due to attend one of the online sessions but decided against doing so.

He told The Journal: “I had to re-think it, it’s just another gimmick, another box-ticking exercise by the government, they won’t actually listen to survivors.

“They consider the people in Ireland more important than the ones outside Ireland. They consider Catholics more important than Protestant.”

Derek said his mother was a Protestant and his father was a Catholic but that he does not identify as either and a person’s religion should not impact their right to seek justice and redress.

Derek (80) wants survivors of Bethany Home, and all similar institutions, to receive the same redress that was granted to survivors of industrial school abuse under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002.

He said the redress process should have started sooner and has called for it to be fast-tracked due to the age of many survivors.

The government has said it was not possible to consider redress prior to the Commission concluding its statutory investigations and delivering its final report in January.

“I’m not going to settle unless I get the right deal, even if it means I don’t get the deal before I die. I’m not going to sell out to people that stood by me over all these years,” Derek said.

“At the end of the day I want what people got under the 2002 redress scheme. I want that, so it can never happen that a small group of people can be ignored as Irish citizens.

“They have to be treated just the same as anybody else regardless of the numbers (that apply for redress), or what religion they might have been classed as.”

Derek said he has requested that a full copy of the Commission’s final report (which is almost 3,000 pages long) be posted to him, but this has not yet happened.

Bethany Home was situated first in Blackhall Place in Dublin city and later in Rathgar. More than 1,500 women and over 1,300 children spent time there between 1922 and 1971.

The institution was founded by a Protestant evangelical group in 1922. It initially admitted women of all religions, but the majority of women sent there were Protestants and it ceased to take Catholic women in 1940.

The 2002 redress scheme has cost over €1.25 billion, a multiple of the original estimate of €250 million, covering the compensation paid out, legal costs of applicants and administration costs.

More than 16,600 applications to the redress scheme were accepted, with 15,600 awards offered to survivors or their families.

Over €360 million has been paid by 18 congregations towards the 2002 redress scheme, but the vast majority of the money has been paid by the State.

‘No decisions made on eligibility criteria’

A spokesperson for the Department of Children told The Journal that the current consultation process is “central to ensuring that a broad range of views, in particular those of survivors, feed into the design of the (redress) scheme”.

“No decisions have been made as yet in relation to the specifics of the Restorative Recognition Scheme or eligibility criteria.

“The Interdepartmental Group, which has been established to develop detailed proposals for the Scheme, is keen that there is wide participation in the consultation process to ensure the output is rich and representative of survivors’ views,” the spokesperson said.

They confirmed that “printing and delivery of the report to persons living outside Ireland is ongoing”.

In an interview with The Journal last month, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said the government wants to establish the redress scheme “as quickly as possible as well” while “also learning from the mistakes that were made in previous redress schemes”.

“As regards the industrial schools and even with regards to the Magdalene Laundries, there were a lot of criticisms there.

“So I’m very conscious of the State having failed survivors in the past, and certainly my focus is to try and get these different resolutions implemented as quickly as possible, particularly because of the age group of many survivors, they need these solutions as quickly as possible.”

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The online consultation sessions started on Monday and 13 are planned to date, up from the initial 10 due to demand.

“There has been strong interest and uptake in the option of attending an online consultation meeting. Thirteen online consultation meetings have taken place or are planned so far. Every effort will be made to accommodate anyone who wants to participate in an online consultation meeting,” the spokesperson said.

As of Monday, 22 March, 70 written submissions had been received.

Written submissions can be made by 31 March via email (submissions@oakconsulting.ie) or they can be posted to OAK Consulting, C/O Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, FREEPOST F5055. More information can be read here

Information on the support services available for mother and baby homes survivors can be read here.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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