Group finds more babies who died at Protestant Bethany Home

‘The only difference between us and the children in Tuam is that we had the names’

Derek Leinster, founder of the Bethany Home Survivors Group, with the memorial to  children and babies who died at the institution: “Unlike the Catholics, we got no redress,” he said.  Photograph: Sara Freund

Derek Leinster, founder of the Bethany Home Survivors Group, with the memorial to children and babies who died at the institution: “Unlike the Catholics, we got no redress,” he said. Photograph: Sara Freund

 

More children died in the Protestant-run Bethany Mother and Child Home in Rathgar, Dublin than previously known, following an investigation by members of the Bethany Survivors Group.

A memorial carrying the names of 222 Bethany children who were buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Jerome cemetery between 1922 and 1949 was unveiled in 2014.

However, the Bethany Home Survivors Group said it recently uncovered the names of more children through the records of undertakers who interred the bodies in the paupers’ grave, and other sources.

In all, the group now believes that 247 children died in the Protestant children’s home .

Many of the children’s death certificates carried the word “marasmus”, a form of severe malnutrition. The home also sent children to Northern Ireland, England, and the United States.

Denies responsibility

While the Bethany home was Protestant-run, the main Protestant churches have denied denied responsibility for it. The Church of Ireland said it “did not own or run the home” and, while it has three management committee minutes books, these were “found by a member of the public and deposited in the Representative Church Body Library for safe keeping”.

In a statement on its website Irish Church Missions – which is run by trustees comprised of Anglican Evangelical clergy and laity – said it had “no responsibility for the administration or management of Bethany Home. Over the years individual ICM members, like others from different Protestant denominations, were involved in a private, voluntary capacity but not as in any way representing our society.”

Survivors say members of the Presbyterian and Methodist communities also took part in its running alongside evangelicals. The Bethany Home Survivors Group said it was disappointed in the response from individual churches and particularly in the State which blocked access to compensation through the Redress Board.

Prison and maternity hospital

“The only difference between us and the children in Tuam is that we had the records of the names of those who died,” said Derek Leinster who was adopted at the age of four by a Wicklow family, and now lives in Britain.

He said, “Unlike the Catholics, we got no redress.” He said the Government told him, for 14 years, that Bethany House was a private home run by a private organisation that was nothing to do with the State. “I said would that be the same if they had made sausage meat of us.”

In fact he said he has established Bethany House had functioned as a maternity hospital and should have come under the 1908 Children Act. He said Bethany House had also acted as a prison for female petty criminals and those who committed infanticide, as well as people under 17.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, has met members of the Bethany Home Survivors Group in a pastoral capacity. After one meeting he said: “Having spoken again in recent days with the former residents I am conscious of their feeling of injustice that the State has not examined the home in a similar way to other institutions.”