The Irish government has been accused of “insulting” former residents of the Bethany Mother and Child Home and having a “sectarian” agenda.
Yesterday, the Republic’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter issued a letter rejecting an appeal for redress from survivors of the Protestant-run institution where squalor, abuse and neglect were said to be commonplace.
The Bethany home in Dublin was mainly for women of the Protestant faith who were unmarried mothers, and those convicted for petty crime, as well as young children. Others were sent to Bethany-run centres in Northern Ireland and England.
Campaigners have been fighting to overturn an Irish government decision to exclude Bethany survivors from the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme – a programme aimed at helping those who suffered in the Magdalene laundries, Catholic-run orphanages and industrial schools.
Rejecting the campaigners’ appeals yesterday, the Irish government said the Bethany cases were not comparable to the Magdalene women or survivors of clerical abuse.
“There aren’t allegations of sexual abuse such as gave rise to the Redress Board. There aren’t allegations of brutality such as gave rise to the Redress Board,” Mr Shatter said.
“Some of those who were in the Bethany homes were there for one or two weeks and they moved on to foster care and it simply is not practical or possible for the State to make compensation payments in these circumstances.”
Slamming the decision, campaigners said the government’s offer of “modest” funding for a memorial to the children buried in Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin was an insult.
Derek Leinster, chair of the survivors’ group, said: “We have proved that the State was responsible for death and neglect at the home and that it was more interested in maintaining sectarian peace between Roman Catholics and Protestants than in child welfare. That is why the state medical adviser declared that it was well known that illegitimate children were delicate and marasmic (starving).
“That is why there are 219 children in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery.”
Mr Leinster said the rejection was not the end of the matter, and added: “The offer to look at records production and ‘modest’ funding for a memorial is an insult. We are not going away. We’ll be back.”
The Irish government has rejected the campaigners’ claims that the State’s position on Bethany was motivated by sectarian sensitivities.