Protestant children from a County Wicklow orphanage were allegedly used for unpaid labor in Northern Ireland according to Northern Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy, who has called for an investigation by the team conducting an ongoing inquiry into historical institutional child abuse.
According to the Irish Times Kennedy has written to the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland requesting that the Westbank Home in Greystones, County Wicklow be included in any investigations carried out under the remit of the Northern Ireland Executive inquiry into historical institutional abuse.
'There is a clear need to fully investigate the issues of concern prevalent in respect of this institution, including reports of children suffering a combination of physical and sexual abuse,' Kennedy reportedly wrote.
'It would also appear there were unregulated movements of children back and forth over the Border which resulted in them being exploited as unpaid labour in Northern Ireland,' he added.
'I have been advised that a practice of unregulated fostering arrangements which resulted in children being sent to families in Northern Ireland emanated from activities carried out at Westbank Home and, whilst it has not been determined if any relevant statutory body or institution in either the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland was aware of these illegal movements or 'fostering' of children, it is . . . apparent that these matters require full and thorough investigation.
'I believe it is necessary for the Westbank Home institution to be included as part of the investigations currently being undertaken by the inquiry authorised by the Northern Ireland Executive,' Kennedy wrote.
Westbank was a privately run orphanage for Protestant children that was run by Adeline Mathers from 1946 to 1999 and was the subject of an national news and current affairs program last year.
The program heard from a former resident at the home, Colm Begley who claimed he was regularly beaten, frequently went hungry and was injected as a punishment and 'treatment' for wetting the bed.
However Dorothy McKeown, a woman who spoke to the program, said she went to the home at the age of two and her memories were positive.
'My childhood was normal. I always remember auntie telling us we weren’t orphans, because she was our mum and God was our father.'
The Northern Ireland Executive has not yet announced if it will investigate the allegations made about the establishment as part of its inquiry into historical institutional child abuse.