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Monday 20 February 2017

Unmarked babies' graves revealed

Published 10/09/2010 | 10:22

Almost 220 unmarked graves for forgotten babies who died in a Protestant children's home were discovered, it was claimed today.

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An academic revealed there was a shocking number of infant deaths at the Bethany Home in Rathgar over a 47 year period after he widened his trawl of cemetery records.

On Monday, former residents of the facility, the Bethany Survivors Group, will call on Government ministers to include them in the redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse.

Lecturer Niall Meehan claimed officials ignored high death rates at the home in the 1930s and instead deflected complaints by turning the issue into a religious squabble.

"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," he said.

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

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

In May, Mr Meehan discovered 40 unmarked Bethany graves at the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold's Cross after consulting documents from the institution and the cemetery. Survivors are campaigning for a monument to remember the babies, who died at an average age of three months to a year.

The Griffith College Dublin lecturer said he since found evidence of another 179 graves for the period 1922 to 1949. More than a third of the total - 86 - died over a five year period from 1935.

The highest mortality rate was recorded in 1936 when 29 babies were buried.

Mr Meehan said records from Bethany Home also showed there could be another 30 forgotten babies in another graveyard.

"It's a terrible indictment on Irish society that so many children were destined to be forgotten and not considered important enough to be acknowledged," he said.

"They were just put in the ground in an unmarked common grave and forgotten about forever.

"Think about these human beings and how terrible it was for their mothers."

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