Wicklow People

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'Bethany Home survivors should be part of redress'

Derek Linster has been campaigning for the survivors of Bethany and other Protestant institutions to be included in any schemes


Derek Leinster at the unveiling of the memorial to 222 children who died between 1922 and 1949 in the Bethany mother and baby home

Derek Leinster at the unveiling of the memorial to 222 children who died between 1922 and 1949 in the Bethany mother and baby home

Derek Leinster at the unveiling of the memorial to 222 children who died between 1922 and 1949 in the Bethany mother and baby home


A survivor of the Bethany Home will continue to campaign for the inclusion of the home as part of State inquiries and redress schemes into baby and mother homes.

Derek Linster maintains that the neglect he suffered at the Dublin based home resulted in a life-time of underlying health issues.

Aged just seven months, Derek was placed with a family in Nun Cross, before being sent back to the Bethany Home. As a four year old Derek was fostered out to a family in Dunganstown, who he describes as "poor and dysfunctional".

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes found that a total of 262 children associated with the Bethany Home in Dublin died, with most of these deaths occurring between 1937 and 1947.

Derek, now aged 79, is adamant that survivors of Bethany and other Protestant homes should be included in any redress scheme.

'We are still fighting the good fight and are making progress. We are just looking for what other people got during the 2002 redress in terms of compensation for survivors of mother-and-baby homes. Everyone knows survivors of Bethany Home should have been included.

'Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy said in 2017 that the Bethany Home should have been included, and she said the same thing last year. I have been fighting for this for a long time and am basically a one man band.

'There is no question I have been proven right at every turn. There are death certificates from Bethany Home and other Protestant homes that have yet to feature in any report. There are up to 18 homes which haven't featured in any report, not the mention the thousands of children who died in these homes.'

Derek suffered a traumatic childhood being brought up in Bethany House and wrote two books on his difficult life - 'Hannah's Shame' and 'Destiny Unknown.' He was born in the Bethany Home in 1941.

'Both of my parents were alive and had abandoned their duty of care. If you are born in a home and abandoned by your mother then you are essentially an orphan.

'In any civilized society the Government should take over and make sure there are fit and proper places for children in those circumstances. It's not morally right to just let kids rot and die.'

The commission states that of the total of 262 children associated with Bethany who died; 61 per cent of child deaths occurred between 1937 and 1947'.

'I know from my own personal experience just how badly the children at Bethany were treated. I suffered four horrific diseases while I was there, any one of which could have killed me. I had Bronchial Pneumonia, Diptheria, Pertussis and Enteritis. It's a miracle I survived.

'The after effects have impacted for the rest of my life and remain to this day. I have been on medication for all my life and still remain prone to severe fevers.'

Derek went on to endure a difficult upbringing after he was fostered to a family in Dunganstown aged four.

'They were an extremely poor and dysfunctional family. Again I feel the State had a duty of care to ensure that the family I was sent to could actually look after me properly.'

When he left school at the age of 13 he was unable to read or write, and he further attributes the lack of care he received to the numerous and lengthy bouts of illness he suffered when growing up.

Derek also rallies against any claims that Bethany Home was a privately run home.

'The nursing out of children isn't being included in reports. That involves a situation where a child is placed with a temporary family until a more permanent home can be found.

'The Government claims that Bethany was a privately-run home but I have documentation to prove that the State was involved.

'Families involved in the nursing out of children were getting money to look after them. That proves the State's responsibility for care and their involvement.'

A new legal team have lent their support to Derek and will continue to monitor the situation, with legal action still a strong possibility.

He believes that he and fellow survivors of Protestant mother and baby homes are being excluded from redress schemes in the hope that the matter can be brushed under the carpet.

'There are very few Bethany Home survivors left alive to make a case. The longer this drags on then the better chance there is that everyone will be gone. There is no doubt about that. If they aren't already dead, dementia has sadly taken over.'

Derek has received plenty of backing for his campaign for redress. One of his greatest allies throughout the years was his wife Carol, who sadly passed away recently.

Following the publication of the recent Commission's Report on Mother and Baby Homes, the Taoiseach said the survivors of abuse, adoption etc would in future be able to obtain their personal records, Protestant survivors were optimistic that things had finally changed, but ended up feeling abandoned once again.

'Historically, retrieval of personal records has been a major problem with the State and Protestant Church agencies appearing to be working to prevent this from happening.

'We have recently found out that 'Here2Help Tracking', the go to organisation to help Protestant Survivors obtain their records was closed in June 2020 due to lack of Government funding and arrangements for The Adoption Agency of Ireland (AAI) to offer this service have not been put in place.

'In hindsight it appears that the sectarian sins of the past have not been exorcised and the Taoiseach was only talking about Catholic survivors, not Protestant ones.'