Bethany - The home the State forgot

Monday 13 May 2013 14.28
Bethany - The home the State forgot

Tanya Sillem blogs ahead of tonight's programme from RTÉ's Investigations Unit:

135 children died in less than 10 years while in the care of the Bethany Home in Dublin, in the middle of the last century. Bethany was a protestant run Mother and Baby home. Many of the children who died there are buried in unmarked graves in Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery. Seventy-two year old Derek Leinster was born in Bethany just as the death rate peaked. State Inspectors found neglect, and babies dying from diseases linked to malnutrition. Derek believes it was only a long stretch in Cork Street Isolation Hospital that saved him. His records show he had whooping cough, diphtheria, and gastroenteritis.

In February Derek and other survivors of Bethany heard the Taoiseach’s apology to the Magdalenes, and asked why they are still waiting for the state to recognise them. In 2002 the state set up a redress scheme for victims of child abuse in residential institutions. In common with the Magdalene laundries, survivors of Bethany never made it onto the scheme. Tonight’s Prime Time shows that even though the state recognised the home had operated under its ‘jurisdiction’, it didn’t accept there was sufficient evidence of state regulation or inspection. By the time that evidence surfaced, Bethany had been ruled out on the grounds it was the ‘wrong’ type of institution, and as a Mother & Baby home wouldn’t qualify for the redress scheme.

In the meantime, Catholic Religious orders had signed an indemnity agreement with the state. Bethany was run by Protestant Trustees before it closed in 1970, and wasn’t part of the deal. Being part of the indemnity agreement meant that in return for a contribution to the redress scheme, the state paid all child abuse claims against institutions named in the Redress Act. It was in the interests of the religious orders to make sure that as many of their institutions as possible were named, or added to the Act. As the programme shows, two orders lobbied the Department of Education and in 2004 a Mother and Baby home was among the institutions added to the Redress Act .

In recent months the Department of Justice has indicated that the case of Bethany is under consideration.

Tanya Sillem

Prime Time, RTÉ 1, 21:35