The Ghosts of Bethany Home

On August 29, 2012, in Bethany Homes, by Paddy

Sent on behalf of Derek Leinster by Niall Meehan, Secretary Bethany Survivors, 00353 87 6428671

For publication

The Ghosts of Bethany Home


A group of survivors of the Protestant Bethany Home, their spouses and friends (including public representatives) met in Mount Jerome Cemetery Dublin yesterday (August 28th). We were there to report progress to the ghosts of 219 Bethany children in Mount Jerome, 218 in unmarked graves.

In 2010 we reported to the children the official explanation for their deaths. In 1939 the then Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the state observed in a confidential memo after visiting Bethany Home, “It is well known that illegitimate children are marasmic and delicate”. He then prevented the home from admitting Roman Catholics. ‘Unwanted’ children were expected to die and suffer abuse or neglect separately, that is to say silently (from an official point of view).

We did not have a lot of progress to report yesterday with regard to the Irish state admitting culpability. That is despite considerable support from TDs, senators, MLAs, MEPs, newspapers, TV and radio, north and south. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin has wished us well, though he or his representatives were obviously too busy to attend. The same goes for the equally well meaning Presbyterian Church. In their absence one survivor, Victor Stevenson, read a short passage from the Bible, while another, Sydney Herdman, delivered a short prayer. Former Bethany Resident Patrick Anderson McQuoid, Niall Meehan from Griffith College and Gerald Morgan from Trinity College spoke, as did Sean Crow TD and Senator Terry Brennan. My wife Carol was also moved to speak, the first time ever to speak publicly. I said a few words. We were very grateful to Joe Costello TD, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for attending and pledging his continued support, immediately on his return from inspecting refugee camps in Jordan.

Afterwards, we marvelled at the ability of certain formerly Protestant run institutions that were, unlike Bethany Home, admitted to the state redress scheme contributing precisely nothing toward the approximately €6m paid out by the state in compensation to former residents. It may be because during the 1970s these institutions lost their exclusively Protestant character and were effectively taken over by the state. Our misfortune is that Bethany Home closed in 1972. However, former residents from, for example, Miss Carr’s Home and the Smiley’s Home, claimed compensation when they were resident in those homes on precisely the same basis as I and fellow survivors were in Bethany Home. But we are still locked out of official recognition of our institutional existence.

It would spin your head if not a child’s body in its grave.

Yours, etc,

Derek Leinster
Chairperson, Bethany Home Survivors
42, Southey Road, Rugby, Warwickshire CV22 6HF, England,