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Bethany Home survivor 'highly concerned' by legal delays as State seeks more time to respond

The State believes parts of Derek Leinster’s case fall outside the statute of limitations.

Derek Leinster (file photo)
Derek Leinster (file photo)
Image: PA Images

LAWYERS REPRESENTING THE Irish State have sought more time to respond to legal proceedings lodged by Bethany Home survivor Derek Leinster.

The State is seeking extra time to reply to Leinster’s application for discovery in relation to documents in the case.

Catherine Donnelly SC told the High Court this morning that the State also plans to submit an application asking the Court to decide on a preliminary basis whether parts of Leinster’s case fall outside the statute of limitations.

Donnelly told Mr Justice Brian O’Moore that this motion “would have a bearing on the discovery motion”.

Leinster, who was born in Bethany Home in Dublin in 1941, is taking legal proceedings against the Irish State, the Minister for Children and the Attorney General.

The 80-year-old has campaigned for over 20 years for survivors of Bethany Home and other Protestant institutions to receive the same redress that was granted to survivors of industrial school abuse under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002.

Donnelly today noted that Leinster’s case relates to alleged abuse he suffered while in Bethany Home and after he was adopted, as well as the “ongoing failure on the part of the State to provide redress” for Bethany Home survivors.

She said the defendants take the view that the “historic exclusion” of Bethany Home survivors from previous redress schemes dedicated to victims of institutional abuse is “now out of date” from a legal point of view and cannot be pursued. As such, the preliminary application “needs to be heard” before the discovery motion, she said.

Donnelly said, if the High Court agrees with the State’s view on the statute of limitations during a future hearing, this could result in a “very significant saving of time, cost and resources” for both sides.

‘Highly concerned about delays’

Céile Varley BL, representing Leinster on behalf of the The Free Legal Advice Centre (Flac), told the court she could not consent to an extension being given to the State as Leinster is “an elderly man in poor health”.

Varley said her client is “one of a handful” of Bethany Home survivors who are still alive and, as such, he is “highly concerned about additional delays in the matter”.

Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said he could not currently grant extra time in relation to the discovery motion, but gave the defence and the prosecution until 6pm on 10 June to submit affidavits in relation to the case.

Justice O’Moore said he understands Leinster’s “legitimate desire for expedition” in the case, given the reasons outlined by Varley.

He listed both issues for mention at the High Court on 20 June but noted it is “unlikely” they will be heard on that date. “It is a big ask that one or both will be heard on that date,” he said, but added that at least they can “move forward”.

Leinster today told The Journal he cannot comment on the proceedings at this point in time. A spokesperson for Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman also said he cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Redress schemes

Flac lodged High Court proceedings on behalf of Leinster on 30 September, as previously reported by The Journal.

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.

In a previous interview with The Journal, Leinster called for the Mother and Baby Home redress scheme to be fast-tracked due to the age of many survivors.

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“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.

“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,” Leinster said last year.

Mother and Baby Homes

The Government’s redress scheme for survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes was unveiled in November 2021.

All mothers who spent time in an institution will be eligible for a payment, which will increase based on their length of stay.

All children who spent six months or more in an institution will also be eligible for payment based on their length of stay, as long as they did not receive redress for that institution under the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme (RIRS).

Many survivors and experts have criticised the fact that people who were born in an institution but spent less than six months there have been excluded from claiming redress.

Clinicians working in the area of childhood trauma previously wrote to Minister O’Gorman asking for the parameters of the redress scheme to be changed, in particular the six-month time limit, to take into consideration “the impact of early trauma”.

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Órla Ryan

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