Bethany home compensation rejected
McDonald criticises Government for decision
Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch said she was disappointed that Sinn Féin had not checked its basic facts. Photograph: Alan Betson
A Sinn Féin demand for compensation for survivors of the Bethany home in Dublin was rejected yesterday. The home closed in 1972.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the reasons set out by the Government for denying justice to the Bethany survivors were as mealy-mouthed as those of the last administration. Survivors, said the Government, were not entitled to redress as Bethany was a mother and baby home.
“But, of course, Bethany was not just a mother and baby home,’’ she said. “The Government’s attempt to rewrite history simply does not stand up under scrutiny.’’
Bethany, she said, was a maternity home and a children’s home, from which children were fostered in and out of neglectful homes . “It was also a place of detention for women on remand or convicted of crimes,’’ she said. “Evidence in the public domain, and, indeed, records held by Government departments, attest to these facts.’’
Ms McDonald said the small numbers of survivors of the Bethany home told a tale of poverty, but that was simply the backdrop to their stories of neglect, cruelty and suffering.
“The State was aware of these children’s existence and of the neglect and cruelty meted out to them,’’ she added.
Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch said that in May 2007 the Department of Health advised that evidence of a regulatory function had been located and the inclusion of the home in the redress scheme could be considered.
However, as the information located identified that the home operated as a mother and baby home, it was not regarded as eligible for inclusion in the scheme. She said she was disappointed that Sinn Féin had not bothered to check its basic facts. She added she would be concerned about rushing into passing judgment on those who ran the home without hearing their side of the story.
Ms Lynch said the infant mortality rate in the Bethany home was very high by today’s standards and children there did suffer from diseases associated with poverty and neglect. “However, it seems to have been accepted at the time that the Bethany home was run by people with charitable motives,” she added.