Call for Magdalene inquiry to include Bethany Home
THE ENTERPRISE Minister for Northern Ireland has asked the chair of a committee set up to examine the Irish Government’s interaction with the Magdalene laundries to extend its remit to include a Protestant-run mother- and-baby home.
Arlene Foster wrote to Senator Martin McAleese asking him to extend the investigation into State involvement in the Magdalene laundries to include the Bethany Home, a mother-and-baby home in Rathgar between 1921 and 1972, which had a Protestant evangelical ethos.
In the letter, dated July 26th, Ms Foster says: “It would be wrong if these residents were not afforded the same investigation as those who formerly lived in the Magdalene laundries,” adding that the senator should express this view to Government.
The terms of reference for an interdepartmental committee to clarify State interaction with the Magdalene laundries, to be chaired by Mr McAleese, have yet to be published.
Niall Meehan, head of journalism in Griffith College, represented the Bethany Survivor’s Group last month. He met Minister of State Kathleen Lynch and Labour TDs Joe Costello and Robert Dowds to put forward the case the remit should be extended to include the Bethany Home.
He said there was “no doubt in his mind” that the exclusion of Bethany would constitute discrimination on behalf of the State towards a Protestant minority.
“The State had an irrefutable duty of care which they fell down on,” he said, adding the Magdalene laundries and the Bethany Home were comparable in that the State has denied that it was responsible for sending women and children there.
“In the absence of being included in the redress scheme, the inclusion of the Bethany Home in the terms of reference of the committee would provide a means of having this situation articulated by putting all the information on the table.” He said the numbers of survivors were relatively small – the group is in contact with 25-30.
However, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has reiterated that there is no plan to include the Bethany Home in the terms of reference.
In a written question last month, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe said the failure to include the Bethany Home was a form of discrimination against residents in the home which may contravene Article 44.3 of the Constitution. Senator David Norris has said the Bethany Home case was “exactly analogous to that of the Magdalene laundries”.