Survivors call for inquiry to include Protestant-run homes

Campaign groups concerned over possible exclusion of Westbank Orphanage

The commission of inquiry into mother and baby homes will neglect the experiences of children who suffered physical and sexual abuse if it fails to include certain Protestant-run institutions, a campaign group has said.

The Bethany Survivors Group is calling for an inquiry that includes all homes that catered for the Protestant community in the Republic such as the Bethany Home in Dublin, Westbank Orphanage in Wicklow and the Church of Ireland Magdalene Home in Dublin.

Minister for Children James Reilly will meet with groups and individuals over the next two weeks as he finalises the terms of reference for the commission. A spokesman for Dr Reilly said the Minister wants to see the matters addressed "in a sensitive and timely manner".

Following a meeting with Dr Reilly yesterday afternoon, the survivors group expressed concern that Westbank Orphanage would be excluded from the terms of reference. "As far as he is concerned, it won't be included," said the group's secretary, Niall Meehan.

Mr Meehan said this would mean the inquiry would neglect the experiences of survivors who allege they were subjected to physical and sexual abuse in the orphanage and it would exclude the experiences of children who were sent across the Border to Northern Ireland and ended up working with families as labourers.

“We would be very insistent that the inquiry has to look at what happened beyond the gates of those mother and baby homes,” Mr Meehan said

He said the campaign group would continue to lobby for the inclusion of Westbank in the commission. “We are going to fight this all the way,” he said.

“Children were sent to Westbank Orphanage from where they were never adopted. That institution was never inspected. The State was supposed to regulate it – it did not. It closed in 2002 and it has to be included,” said Mr Meehan.

“What would have to have happened in Westbank for the State to sit up and take notice?” he said.

Dr Reilly’s spokesman said the Minister has been meeting a range of groups and individuals as part of the process to put together the terms of reference for the commission’s work.

“The Minister is guided with trying to get the balance right . . . with trying to make sure we get a commission that works,” he said. “If you put into the inquiry every particular request, we would get an inquiry that would never end.”

The Bethany Home Survivors Campaign is considering taking its campaign to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN.

“We will bring it to the Court of Human Rights if we don’t get an effective inquiry,” said Mr Meehan.

Dr Reilly is to hold further meetings over the coming fortnight with “the intention to bring a memorandum to Government in the near future”, his spokesman said.