By DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Sunday January 20 2013

Defunct Protestant care homes were included in the State redress scheme for victims of child abuse because the Department of Health and Children knew there would be no claims from them, newly obtained documents reveal.

Emails between officials in the department in the past decade, which have just come available to the Sunday Independent, show that a number of Protestant care homes were included because they knew there would be no claims from centres which “operated in the 1800s”.

The documentation released is part of a legal case that abuse victims are preparing to take against the State.

The emails date from 2003 when the then Fianna Fail-led Government was under severe pressure to widen the scope of the clerical abuse redress scheme which has now exceeded €1.36bn.

According to documents released, officials included Mrs Smyly’s Homes for Necessitous Children on the grounds there would be no claims from those institutions. One official wrote to his colleague: “I would be inclined to include them in the schedule as they were used as residential centres for children. I think it is safe to assume that there will be no applications for those centres which operated in the 1800s!”

Protestant abuse victims at the former Bethany Home have said the revelation shows a “highly cynical” move by officials to include defunct Protestant homes for “purely optical reasons” while institutions that would have resulted in claims to the State continue to be omitted.

Derek Leinster, chairman of the Bethany Home Survivors Group, said the documents showed clearly how their rights as citizens had continually been denied by the State.

“Why were defunct homes like the Mrs Smyly’s Homes included when Bethany Home, which certainly qualified under the State’s own criteria for abuse, has been omitted and remains outside the scheme today?” he said.

“It is a disgrace. All we want is justice. The Catholic homes are all included yet Protestant homes like Bethany remain ignored. Why?”

Responding to queries from the Sunday Independent, the Department of Education denied that Bethany Home was excluded from the redress scheme on religious grounds.

“Any allegations that Bethany Home was excluded from the redress scheme on religious grounds are not true. While the inclusion of Bethany Home was considered, it was not included within the redress scheme,” a spokeswoman for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said.

“Minister Quinn met with Bethany Survivors Group on May 24, 2011. He subsequently reviewed the papers on the home, and having taken all the circumstances into account found no basis to revisit the decision not to include the home within the redress scheme.”

Mr Leinster and other Bethany Home survivors of abuse have also been critical of Church of Ireland leaders over their response to their calls for compensation.

However, a spokesman for the Church of Ireland said Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson remains supportive of their efforts.

“Archbishop Jackson met a number of former residents of Bethany Home shortly after taking up office,” he said.

“The archbishop expressed his concern for former residents and relayed that he had written to the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn encouraging him to re-examine as a matter of urgency the group’s appeal to include Bethany Home in the State redress scheme. Archbishop Jackson continues to be supportive of the Bethany Home Survivors Group’s efforts.”

– DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter