Bethany residents remembered

Wed, May 26, 2010, 01:00

Former residents of a Protestant children’s home gathered in a Dublin cemetery today as the names of 40 forgotten babies were read out at their unmarked graves.

Some 75 years after the infants were buried, former residents of the Bethany Home in Rathgar laid flowers, memorial cards and small toys at their final resting place.

The graves, in barren ground at the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross, were discovered by Griffith College Dublin lecturer Niall Meehan after consulting documents from the institution.

The Bethany Home was run by evangelical members of the Church of Ireland but had no formal connection with that church. It operated at Blackhall Place in Dublin from 1921-34 and at Orwell Road, Rathgar, until it closed in 1972. It was also a place of detention for women convicted of petty theft, prostitution, infanticide and birth concealment.

Patrick Anderson-McQuoid, who was brought to Bethany shortly after he was born in 1947, recited a poem he had written for the occasion before reading out the children’s names.

“The whole purpose was to acknowledge their short time on earth and put their names out in the open,” he said. “It was very sombre standing on the spot but there was a sense of achievement that we had got to this point.”

The former residents of the combined children’s home, maternity home and detention centre for female convicts are now campaigning for a monument to remember the babies, who had an average age of three to six months.

Derek Leinster has also established a support group for fellow residents of the home, which closed in 1972.

“I’m getting contacts in America, Australia, Canada, Britain and Ireland,” Mr Leinster said. “There’s a lot of people affected by it and it’s all been hidden. Now it’s time to stop the hiding.”

The 68-year-old, who now lives in England, said many people suffered long-term health problems from the neglect they endured at the home.

Mr Leinster also called for the Government to help locate burial sites of other children from the home.

“You can never block it out,” he added. “As a father with four children, to think these children were there without any love or care or attention - anyone who’s human couldn’t fail to be moved.”

Mr Meehan found the graves, most of which are situated in two adjoining plots, with the help of a cemetery employee after obtaining documents from the home.

Among those who attended the memorial event were independent Senator David Norris and Labour equality spokeswoman Kathleen Lynch.

Ms Lynch backed calls for Bethany survivors to have access to the State’s redress scheme for similar institutions.

“I believe that the Bethany Home should be included within the Irish Government’s redress scheme, as well as the Magdalene Laundry women, so that people who suffered the horrors of abuse in the institution, on the wink and nod of the state, can be afforded the reparations that they deserve,” she said. “I also believe that there should be a fitting and appropriate memorial to children who did not survive.”

PA