Northern Ireland

Bethany Home Church of Ireland link claimed

Survivors of the Bethany Home in Dublin have claimed that the Church of Ireland was more involved with the home than it has previously said.

In September, researchers estimated that 219 children died at the home before its closure in 1972.

The 69-year-old chairman of the survivors' group, Derek Linster, said he and other residents were grossly neglected and still suffered poor health as a result.

The survivors' group has received a letter from the Irish Republic's Department of Justice which appears to cast doubt on the church's claim that the home was completely independent of it.

Dated 9 April, 1945, it was written by the then Church of Ireland Archbishop, Dr Arthur William Barton, to Gerald Boland, the then minister for justice.

In the letter, Dr Barton suggested the Bethany Home, an evangelical institution for unmarried women and their children, as a suitable place for 'Protestant girls on remand'.

In a statement on Friday in response to the claims, the Church of Ireland said the current Archbishop of Dublin and the church were "conscious of the pain" expressed by former residents of the Bethany Home.

It said church clergy were available to provide pastoral care to former residents.

The church said it had made available "all records relating to the Bethany Home of which it has knowledge" and had provided copies of minute books for the home to Professor Niall Meehan.

"The letter dated April 1945 from a former Archbishop of Dublin to a former Minister for Justice, which has come to light from government records, confirms that in 1945 the Bethany Home was already subject to government inspection, was recognised by the courts as a place of detention and that arrangements involving the home were already in place," it added.

"This supports claims made by former residents of a formal relationship between State institutions and the home.

"The church has for some time asked the state to have the Bethany Home brought under the remit of the Residential Institutions Redress Board and notes Minister Haughey has recently confirmed in the Dail (Irish parliament) that the government will consider cases involving the home on an individual basis.

"This willingness to engage with former residents is welcomed as a positive step."

Unmarked graves

Earlier, Mr Linster of the survivors' group, had said the church and state both needed to admit their roles.

He said he had received an email from the current Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, in which he said he had no information about the home.

He claimed the Archbishop also denied him permission to investigate the church's correspondence from the time.

The 219 children who died were born between 1922 and 1949 at the home.

Earlier this year, 40 infants from the home were discovered in unmarked graves in the nearby Mount Jerome cemetery.

Researcher, Professor Niall Meehan said the actual figure was likely to be more than five times that.

Mr Meehan said that, at the time, state officials' response to the high infant death rate was "very indifferent".

The journalism lecturer published his evidence in History Ireland magazine.

It included his finding that on average, one child died every three weeks at Bethany House.

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