Survivors of the Church of Ireland’s Bethany mother and baby home last week added the names of 70 children and a mother who died there to their memorial in Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery.
All had been buried in unmarked graves between 1922 and the late 1950s. The names of 169 more Protestant children, mainly from Church of Ireland institutions, are inscribed on a separate upright memorial stone nearby which was also unveiled at the same time.
Campaigner Derek Leinster, who grew up in one of the homes and is based in this country in Rugby founded the The Bethany Home Survivors’ Group ’98.
For the past twenty years he has been trying without success to get the Irish government extend the same redress it offered to survivors of abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland.
It said it had established that the group of 169 children were resident in or under the care of Miss Smyly’s Homes, Miss Carr’s Home, the Church of Ireland Magdalen Asylum and the Irish Church Missions. Many of the children had been ‘nursed out’ by the institutions and died under the care of foster mothers, who were paid by local authorities.
In 2010 the group named 219 of the dead Bethany children and the original Bethany memorial stone, by now with 222 names, was unveiled in Mount Jerome in April 2014. At the ceremony Mr Leinster, who was born into a Bethany home in 1941, released a white dove and urged everyone “to remember the little ones that lost their lives in the Bethany Home”.
Several hundred children had been under the care of the Protestant evangelical institution which moved to Rathgar in the 1930s, he said.
“There just isn’t any more room on our current memorial for new Bethany Home children,” he said. “In addition to the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian and Methodist churches also supported the Bethany Home and other institutions.
“They sent women and children to them, not only from the Republic but also from Northern Ireland. The Presbyterians and Methodists also need to be held to account.”
He said of the mother who had died in childbirth and who is named on the memorial:” It is understood that she died in childbirth of blood loss, and that, tragically, her child died five weeks afterwards.
“I thought it was fitting to have her here looking after all of these little ones.
“I always knew there were mothers who died in the Bethany Home but we had never been able to identify any before now.
“This sad time will allow us to reflect on all of the Irish children that suffered abuse while in the care of churches and the State.
“It is important that we do this while we can because, as time goes by, there are fewer of us able to attend.”
For 20 years, the Bethany Home survivors have campaigned without success for redress payments from the State. Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, who gave a speech at memorial event, at the criticised past Irish governments of all parties for failing to compensate survivors of the Bethany mother and baby home and similar Protestant-run institutions.