Thursday 17 August 2017

200 in unmarked graves and 28 unaccounted for

Former Bethany Home resident from 1941 to 1945 Derek Leinster and his wife Carol beside unmarked graves at Mount Jerome
Former Bethany Home resident from 1941 to 1945 Derek Leinster and his wife Carol beside unmarked graves at Mount Jerome

Edel Kennedy and Ralph Riegel

the bodies of 28 of the children who died in care at a Protestant-run children's home are unaccounted for.

And former residents are now planning to initiate legal proceedings against the Education Minister if they are not included in the State Redress Scheme.

The Irish Independent has learned they have set an October deadline for inclusion after evidence emerged that more than 200 children who died in the Bethany Home in Rathgar were buried in unmarked graves.

If this deadline passes, they will initiate High Court proceedings.

Former resident Derek Leinster said his upbringing was "impoverished beyond belief" and he is now seeking to be included in the scheme.

"They (the State) should do what they did for the Catholics," he said.

"They should apologise to the minority groups for their neglect of their duty of care for their citizens.

"Without being included (in the Redress Scheme) none of us can go forward. People like me and others like me have a right to have our cases reviewed by the minister."

Meanwhile it emerged yesterday that the bodies of 28 of the children who died in care are unaccounted for.

Niall Meehan, head of Journalism at Griffith College Dublin, revealed there were at least 219 infant deaths at the Bethany Home in Rathgar, Dublin, over a 47-year period after he widened his trawl of cemetery records.

It had initially been believed there were 40 children buried in unmarked graves in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Bethany Home was a combined children's home, maternity home and detention centre for female convicts that closed in 1972.

Mr Meehan discovered that at least 219 were buried in Mount Jerome between 1922 and 1949 -- and a further 28 elsewhere.

He said the additional 28 children emerged after comparing cemetery records with those held by adoption agency PACT in relation to the home.

Records

"The organisation that holds the records wouldn't give them to me," said Mr Meehan.

"But they did finally agree to give me figures of how many died in any given year. I cross-referenced those with the numbers in Mount Jerome and 28 are unaccounted for."

Mr Meehan also discovered that eight more babies are buried in Mount Jerome (29) than were reported internally (21) to Bethany's managing committee.

Almost 40pc of 219 child deaths between 1922-1949, occurred in one five-year period from 1935-39.

Additionally, 54 children died from "convulsions", 41 from "heart failure", 26 from "marasmus", a form of malnutrition and seven from "delicacy".

Documents unearthed by Mr Meehan show that in January 1939 the deputy chief medical adviser, William Sterling Berry, visited the home and reported it "much improved since my last inspection".

He also reversed findings of neglect against Bethany nurse mothers in Monaghan.

The following October Mr Sterling Berry returned and rationalised increased sickness and mortality by saying: "It is well recognised that a large number of illegitimate children are delicate ... from their birth and if removed from constant medical supervision and nursing attention often quickly deteriorate."

Mr Meehan added: "The State did little or nothing about reported increases in illness and mortality during the 1935 to 1939 period, though it was brought to the attention of the Dept of Local Government and Public Health by its own inspectors.

"The Government knew the facility was insufficient and did nothing concrete to remedy it."

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan described the reports as "very upsetting" and said she would be discussing the issue with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

She said the Government took the issue very seriously but it had to base any decisions on the historical facts.

Labour TD Joe Costello has called for a "full scale inquiry" into the matter.

Irish Independent

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