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Dublin: 18°C Tuesday 19 October 2021

'Mixed feelings' as Bethany Home survivors meet Shatter

They met the Minister for Justice and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch about getting a state apology and redress for their time in the home.

Survivors from the Bethany Home, including Derek Leinster (far right, with his wife Carol, centre), at the site of unmarked graves
Survivors from the Bethany Home, including Derek Leinster (far right, with his wife Carol, centre), at the site of unmarked graves

SURVIVORS FROM THE Bethany Home in Dublin have described their “mixed feelings” following a meeting with Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch.

The individuals are calling for redress, an apology from the State for how they were treated in the home, and a monument to be built in memory of 219 children who were buried in unmarked graves.

The home closed in 1972.

Right direction

Patrick Anderson McQuoid, whose mother was sent to the home while pregnant with him, described the meeting as a “step in the right direction, put it that way. But no more than that”.

Fellow survivor Derek Leinster said that he had “mixed feelings” about it. “I thought we were past the point of having to listen,” he said, explaining that Minister Shatter and Junior Minister Lynch both indicated the meeting was about listening to the survivors.

Leinster said “there is overwhelming evidence to prove that our case is indefensible”, meaning that the 18 survivors from the home who are fighting for redress do qualify for it.

The home did not qualify under the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002, which is disputed by the survivors. They say they have evidence of the State’s role – such as money from the State being used by the Bethany Home to pay nurse mothers who took in children born at the home.

Leinster said that the meeting “got a very hap-hazardous start” as Minister Shatter informed them that they had just 30 minutes due to time constraints. “It would have been better if the meeting had been cancelled and we had another date,” admitted Leinster.

However, he continued:

But to be fair about it, in fairness to them we have to say we are very grateful we had the opportunity to meet them, but we were very unhappy that we had such a hap-hazardous type of meeting . But we do understand the difficulties they find themselves in in trying to run the State and the difficulties they encountered. But that didn’t make our case any the easier.

Four people spoke during the meeting: their solicitor James McGill, Niall Meehan, Patrick McQuoid and Derek Leinster.

“This is such a complicated case. You needed hours rather than half hours to get any depth or measure on it,” said Leinster, who added the Ministers requested more information from them.

The survivors have received support from councillors in Cork, who recommended that the Government provide a full apology to the surviving women and men of Bethany Home.

Unmarked graves

In 2010, Niall Meehan, who works as a spokesperson for the Bethany Survivors Group, discovered the unmarked graves of 219 children who had been in the home. The group is calling for a monument to be erected in memory of these children.

Bethany Home was an evangelical Protestant-run home, leading to the survivors believing that part of the reason they were not included for redress was their religion.

The home was for unmarried or so-called ‘fallen’ women at the time who were pregnant and sent there to give birth. Female criminals, ex-criminals and prostitutes also spent time there.

The survivors say they experienced physical abuse and neglect at the home, which has led to long-term health issues. They say that they were often placed in unsuitable homes, just because the adoptive parents were Protestant.

TheJournal.ie will carry an in-depth interview with Derek Leinster and Patrick McQuoid about Bethany Home this weekend.

Read: “We hope he does the right thing”: Bethany Home survivors to meet Shatter>

Read: Bethany Home survivors to meet Shatter for redress and apology>

Read: Bethany Home survivors: “They will have to realise we are not going away”>

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