Babies and youngsters of Bethany mother-and-baby home named as survivors continue to fight for an apology.
Volunteers have discovered another 58 children from the Dublin mother-and-baby house, the Bethany House, buried in unmarked graves. These children, who died of a range of issues include malnutrition, syphilis, and heart failure bring the total number of Bethany children in pauper’s graves to over 270.
The Bethany Survivors Group and professional volunteers have matched death records from the evangelical Protestant group home, located on Dublin’s Orwell Road, in Rathgar, with burial records at Mount Jerome.
One of the most striking records is that of a three-week-old boy, William Armstrong, the “son of [a] servant” who died of “marasmus [malnutrition], heart failure”.
While over 275 Bethany Home children have been discovered in paupers’ graves at Mount Jerome it is understood that children from other mother-and-baby homes are also buried in that cemetery.
Between May and Sept 2010 Niall Meehan, the Head of Journalism and Media at Griffith College, Dublin, researched the recorded from Mount Jerome Cemetery.
In 2014, a document was released showing that some of the children at the Bethany Home died of conditions such as marasmus (malnutrition), convulsions, ‘delicacy’, meningitis, German measles, syphilis, ‘general debility’, and heart failure.
Now Meehan and a Bethany Home survivor, Derek Leinster, have told TheJournal.ie it is time for the relatives of these children to know where their family is buried.
Leinster explained that “The new names we have, we have now got plot numbers of where they are buried.”
The Bethany Homes Survivors Group plans to put the names of these 58 children on a new memorial, funded by the Irish States, at Mount Jerome cemetery on June 29, 2018. This memorial will join the first memorial erected in 2014.
A man who has tirelessly campaigned for the rights of Bethany Home survivors, Leinster told TheJournal.ie his feelings around these identifications are twofold.
“It’s sadness, great sadness but it’s also it gives us, in a deep, funny way, a sense of joy because we know these children were dumped because they were considered life lower than a snake. We are now making the people and making the society that allowed this to happen to face it as if they never did before.
He added that “nobody wanted to see [the children] so I wanted to make sure the world sees them”.
“Just because they were born out of wedlock or just because they died because they didn’t get the care that a human being would give a human being, it gives us great pleasure that … we’re making society recognize and accept.”
Leinster added that there still has been no official apology from the Bethany Home. Leinster asked “Why should thousands of people have had money and [an] apology from the State and yet after 20 years we still haven’t had that – why should that be the case?”
“For people like me, we grew up in shame – our younger part of our lives was all to do with shame. We were illegitimate and shamed going to school.”
He added that when he was seven-and-a-half months old, his head was “covered in pus, scabs and blood”.
The Bethany Home opened 1921 in Blackhall Place, in Dublin’s city center and moved to Rathgar 1934. Bethany was the sole mother and baby home for Protestant women who found themselves single and pregnant. It was the only such semi-secure institution for Protestants and it also doubled up as an orphanage, center for Protestant women and girls on remand from the courts, on probation, etc.
At least 227 babies died between 1921 and 1949 and it is likely the final figure will be approximately 300 or more. The Bethany Home closed in 1972.
The Bethany Home Survivors Group has called on the Irish government and the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse to include Bethany Home in the State redress scheme. In 2011, the then-Education Minister Ruairí Quinn said the Bethany Home would not be included in the McAleese inquiry into Magdalene Laundries.
The home is, however, being investigated by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.
In its second interim report, this commission said there is a “strong case for inclusion” of the Bethany Home within the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme and added that it “had not seen any evidence that the exclusion of Bethany Home constituted discrimination on religious grounds”.