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Tuesday 28 January 2020

Call for memorial to forgotten babies

Former residents of a Protestant children's home called today for a permanent memorial at the unmarked graves of 40 forgotten babies.

The infants from the Bethany Home in Rathgar, south Dublin, were buried in barren ground at a nearby cemetery in the mid-1930s.

Their graves, at the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold's Cross, were discovered 75 years on after research by academic Niall Meehan.

Survivors of Bethany - which closed in 1972 - are now campaigning for a monument to remember the babies, who had an average age of three to six months.

They also plan to set up a support group for past residents of the combined children's home, maternity home and detention centre for female convicts.

Patrick Anderson-McQuoid, who was brought to Bethany shortly after he was born in 1947, said a memorial would finally give recognition to the children who passed through the doors of the home.

"It was part of the culture at that time and it's taken all this time to show itself - it's better later than never," he said.

"It's an important thing to acknowledge the children who were brought there and let people know where they are."

Mr Anderson-McQuoid spent several years at the home before he was adopted by a family in Co Down.

The 62-year-old went on to carve out a successful career in the arts but said his time at Bethany has never left him.

"A lot of people tend to block things out but for me you have to deal with these things because eventually they'll creep up on you," he added.

"It was a bit of a shock to hear about the graves but it's somewhere for the families to go to.

"It's important that it's recognised."

Niall Meehan located the graves, most of which are situated in two adjoining plots, with the help of a cemetery employee after consulting documents from the home.

The Griffith College Dublin lecturer backed calls for Bethany survivors to have access to the State's redress scheme for similar institutions.

"It was social prejudice facilitated and promoted by the State that they were sent into these homes, so they do deserve redress," he said.

"These graves tell us that so-called illegitimate children were of no importance in Irish society at that time.

"If they died they were buried in common graves and forgotten about and expected to be forgotten about forever.

"We're reversing the stigma and the neglect of decades past."

A Church of Ireland spokesman said the home was run by an independent board of trustees drawn from the Protestant community at large.

"The death of children in the Bethany Home, however caused, was tragic and the wish to raise a memorial to those who died is a very worthwhile one, but it is up to individuals to decide whether or not they wish to contribute," he added.

"The decision about whether or not to include the Bethany Home in the redress scheme is something for the redress board.

"The Church would have no objection to it being included if the board so decided."

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