By Patrick Brogan
Many of our regular readers and listeners of our Podcasts will be familiar with our coverage of the Bethany Home scandal. Bethany Home was a Protestant Orphanage but it also, at times, served as a mother and baby home and centre for unmarried mothers amongst other functions.
Despite matching more criteria than any other institution, Bethany Home did not fall under the Redress Act of 2002. Few Protestant institutions did. This left many that endured the Bethany experience to wonder if there was one rule for Catholics and another for Protestants.
Derek Leinster has campaigned for Redress on behalf of the Bethany Survivors. He was crucial in getting Freedom of Information Requests and highlighting what happened in the home when many, including himself, were not fully aware of the abuses that had taken place there. The abuses were known by, at the very least some in, the Government at the time, even if subsequent governments have said otherwise.
Some of what he uncovered was truly shocking, including his own near-death experience, children covered in lice and being inadequately dressed. I recently asked Derek a few short questions in regards to any progress with his campaign, including a meeting with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. What comes across is his frustration when it comes to dealing with the Government.
“She showed no genuine interest”
-1) What is the current status of the Bethany Home Survivors Group in relation to the Redress Act?
Derek Leinster; We are still outside of it and no one has any idea if this will change any time soon as they keep putting back any date and it doesn’t seem to matter that even the Judge of the 2015 Commission said in 2016 that the Bethany Home should have been on the 2002 Redress. When will it happen? They are hoping that the few Bethany Survivors will never get justice.
-2) How did the meeting with Minister Zappone go?
DL; It was very cold. You knew that she was not going to want to help and we had a room with only water to drink. We did not get the Boston treatment as others got on their trip.
-3) Why do you think she made this decision?
DL; I think it is more about the history of the time the Home was running and I don’t think it is because of money as they have given up to €8 million to the Tuam site. Also, the Minister of Education was the one that stopped us in 2002 and always said there were no records for the Bethany Home as it was private. Because of this, it came under the 1908 Children Act. The Minister of Education has stopped The Minister for Children, but she can not interfere with the Commission. We are left with more questions than answers.
-4) How would you describe your relationship with the minister having met her?
DL; We all knew that she was only happy to pass all the blame to the Minister of Education and had no interest in the last few Protestant survivors that are left. We asked her to go to see our memorial as no Irish Minister has done that in the 20 years. She said she would go if we wanted her to go, but she still hasn’t.
-5) Did she seem genuine about your concerns?
DL; She showed no genuine interest in us or had any concerns about whether we lived or died. It mattered not.
-6) She mentioned that the previous Redress acts were very costly. Is this a case of denying justice so the Government can save some money?
DL; I do not recall that she said anything about it being too costly. As I have said; it is not about cost and we all can see that the money being spent at Tuam over the last five years is up to €8 million. A lot of money and a lot of digging, but so far no one can say that they now know more than we did over 40 years ago. However, we have uncovered plots & grave numbers without the €8 million or any help.
-7) What are your hopes for the future in regards to Bethany Home?
I just want what thousands of Catholic survivors got in 2002 and they did not need any of the records [that we have] as Minister Dr M Woods and the 18 hold order done it with no Protestant [representation] at the meetings behind closed doors in 2004, 2005 and 2012. This was a fast track for the Magdalene Laundry.
Is anything further you would like to add?
DL; This miscarriage of justice should never be able to happen again and this is an abuse of power by the Minister.
Derek at the Bethany Home Memorial in Mount Jerome
If you would like to help the Bethany Home Survivors get justice, you can help by signing this petition
Below is a statement Derek sent to Minister Zappone;
Bethany Home survivors meet Katherine Zappone – Minister
for Children – Thursday 30 May at 11.30am
Bethany survivor Derek Leinster address to Minister
Bethany survivors have done our own research. We have made
our case for redress, without any help from the State.
Our Protestant churches ignored their responsibilities
for abuse in homes they sponsored, managed and
That does not excuse our Irish State doing the same. We
want the same treatment as those who were
compensated by the Redress Board.
Do we deserve less?
Your own Mother & Baby Home Commission said
Bethany survivors, “have a strong case for inclusion” in a
Minister, are you going to act on that recommendation?
There are less than twenty Bethany Home Survivors left.
Many of us died during the 20 years we have been
fighting for State acknowledgement that we existed.
Minister, no one can have any doubts about the harm
suffered by the remaining survivors and those that have
The state’s deputy chief medical advisor, Dr Winslow
Sterling Berry, justified a huge increase in deaths of
Bethany children in 1939 when he said;
“It is well recognised that illegitimate children are
Dr Sterling Berry regulated sectarian provision by forcing
Bethany to cease taking in Roman Catholic mothers and
babies. He ignored his statutory function to regulate the
health and welfare of children.
That, on its own, is evidence of state neglect and
indifference to the deaths of Bethany children.
Minister as you are aware, if this commission ran for
another 20 years it will simply add to a case already
proved. The State has sufficient evidence of Harm being
committed by Bethany Home and state complicity in
Minister if you do not set up a ‘Fast Track’ Redress now,
it will be you who has not done the right thing for the
few remaining Irish Protestant Bethany Home Survivors.
If you do not wish to shame Ireland any more you
should immediately implement a ‘Fast Track’
redress scheme for Bethany Home Survivors. The
Residential Institutions Redress Board is still in
existence. The government could order that Bethany be
included in a redress scheme today.
Many of the children that suffered abuse in Catholic institutions, like the Magdalene Laundries pictured above, received a fast-track redress
Finally, we would like to read you our list of things we
would like you to do immediately.
Dr Niall Meehan will read them.
MOTHER AND BABY HOMES COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATION,
Second Interim Report – on case for redress
It is clear to the Commission, from its
work to date, that the decisions on which
institutions to include in, or exclude from,
the redress scheme are not consistent.
Former residents of the Bethany Home
have been to the forefront in arguing that
they should have been included in the
redress scheme. The Commission is of
the view that they have a strong case
Bethany Home was considered for
inclusion in the redress scheme while the
the legislation was going through the
Oireachtas. An amendment to include
Bethany Home in the Schedule to the
Bill was proposed in the Seanad (22
March 2002). In the course of discussion,
the Minister for Education and Science
said that Bethany Home is “probably one
which should be included”. The amendment was not put to a vote as the
facility to add other institutions was
provided in the Bill and the proposer of
the amendment seemed to understand
that Bethany Home would be included in
the first order which the Minister
proposed to make.
[The Commission] has seen clear
evidence that the State made financial
contributions in respect of some
[Bethany Home] residents and exercised
an inspection/regulatory role.
Westbank: The Commission has heard
arguments specifically in relation to a
home which was associated with Bethany
Home – Westbank/Mayil in Wicklow.
Westbank was not generally regarded as a
mother and baby home but rather as an
orphanage. The Commission has
discovered some evidence that there was
an element of State involvement with
Westbank in that children were sent there
by the health authorities.
The Commission does not consider
that it would be appropriate to include
Westbank in its Terms of Reference.
However, there is an argument that it
should have been included in the
Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.
Many of the children in Westbank were
sent to families in Northern Ireland. Some
of the complaints heard by the
Commission relate to their time with these
families. Clearly, the Commission could
not investigate such complaints. A
separate approach would have to be taken
to any alleged abuse which occurred
outside the State.
MOTHER AND BABY HOMES COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATION,
Fifth Interim Report – on excluding nursed out children
The Commission is not including
children who had been in the [mother
and baby] institutions and who died
after they were placed at nurse or
boarded out. [Commission note:
Children “at nurse” were children who
were placed by the mother or a
voluntary agency in a private home or
institution and a payment was made by
the mother or agency for the child’s
Bethany survivors would like the minister to do the following:
1.Implement a fast track redress scheme for ageing Bethany mother
& baby home survivors, who have proved state neglect. The
Mother & Baby Home Commission of Investigation, Second
Interim Report, said survivors of the Protestant ethos Bethany
Home “have a strong case for inclusion” in a redress scheme;
2. That, as Minister, Katherine Zappone TD visit the 271 Bethany
Home graves and monument in Mount Jerome Cemetery,
Harold’s Cross, Dublin, to show she cares as much about
Bethany children as she does about burials in Tuam;
3. That the Minister ask the Mother and Baby Home Commission
of Investigation to reverse its burials report decision to exclude
burials of ‘nursed–out’ Bethany children;
4. That the Minister ask the Commission to release the names of an
additional 28 buried Bethany children mentioned in its recent
5. That the Minister ask the Commission to investigate children
buried by the Church of Ireland Magdalen Home (Denny House)
and Miss Carr’s Home, ignored in the Commission’s recent
6. That the Commission’s Terms of Reference be widened, if
necessary, to accomplish tasks 3-5;
7. That, as the Commission also recommended in its Second
Interim Report, former residents of the Westbank Orphanage in
Greystones, to which Bethany children were sent, be granted
Join the debate. Feel free to comment. You can also subscribe to the site and follow us on social media to stay in touch (on occasion, we are funny)