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Adams calls for Bethany Home to be included in Redress Scheme

4 October, 2011 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD this afternoon raised the issue of Bethany Home and the Magdalene laundries during Taoiseach’s Questions.

Mr. Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the issue of Bethany Home in Rathgar with the Church of Ireland during his interfaith meetings. The Taoiseach acknowledged that he hadn’t but would in the future.

Senator Martin McAleese is chairing the Inter-departmental Committee on the Magdalene Laundries to establish the facts of the state’s involvement with the laundries. Bethany Home has been excluded from this review.

The Sinn Féin leader asked the Taoiseach if the government would revisit the existing redress scheme for survivors of abuse in State institutions or other institutions run by the religious orders with a view to including Bethany Home. The Taoiseach refused.

Mr. Adams said:

“I was disappointed by the Taoiseach’s response. It was a bureaucratic answer to a very human tragedy. It is also at odds with the government’s public commitment to protect children and to challenge the failings of the Catholic Church in this respect. The survivors of Bethany Home have the right to be treated in the same way as all other survivors of institutional abuse.”

The Sinn Féin leader added:

“Bethany Home was run as an evangelical institution for unmarried mothers and their children. It took in prostitutes, alcoholics, and young people under 17. Women and young people convicted in the courts were also sent there.

“Thus far it has been estimated that 219 children died between 1922 when the Home opened and 1949. They were buried in unmarked graves. Some died from marasumus – a form of malnutrition.

“In 1939 reports from St. Ultan’s and the Coombe Hospitals revealed that children from Bethany suffered from a range of medical problems including, rickets, scalding, whooping coughs and conjunctivitis.

“The failure of the Irish state to properly monitor and manage conditions in Bethany was exposed in reports by the then Deputy Chief Medical Adviser. He explained away neglect criticised by his own inspectors and higher than average mortality by claiming that ‘it is well recognised that a large number of illegitimate children are delicate ...’

“Another aspect of Bethany’s function was the export of children to similar organisations in England, including Barnardo’s; the Salvation Army and Fegan’s Homes for Boys. From these and from Catholic organisations many children were then transferred on to colonies of the British Empire.

“The Irish state knew that Irish children were being sent overseas but did not interfere. The Irish state also knew that large numbers of children were dying from preventable diseases and neglect and abuse but did nothing.

“It is unacceptable to the survivors and to all those seeking truth and closure surrounding abuse in institutions that Bethany Home is excluded from the redress scheme.

“Whatever the financial constraints there is an onus on the government to compensate the victims of Bethany Home and to apologise and express publicly its regret at what occurred.”

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