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'We've been left to rot' - Bethany Home survivor

Added on August 8, 2017

'We've been left to rot' - Bethany Home survivor claims he is ignored by the State because he's a Protestant

Derek Leinster feels Bethany Home survivors have been treated unfairly5
Derek Leinster feels Bethany Home survivors have been treated unfairly

Kathy Armstrong

A survivor of the Bethany mother and baby home claims he has been "left to rot" by the State because he is a Protestant.

Despite Derek Leinster suffering physically and emotionally after being born in the Dublin institution in 1941, he has never received any kind of redress.

He told Independent.ie he is determined to get justice for survivors, saying, "I won't give up until the day I die."

Derek was born to an unwed mother in the home and from when he was seven months old he was "nursed out" to families to be cared for.

He said: "We would be sent to families to be looked after, they would get paid a few shillings.

"When I was sent to them my head was covered in a mass of scabs, blood, and puss, and looked like a child that had just come from a grave.

Chairman of the Bethany survivors group Derek Leinster at the unveiling of the memorial to 222 children from the Bethany Mother and Child Home, at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin Photo: PA55
Chairman of the Bethany survivors group Derek Leinster at the unveiling of the memorial to 222 children from the Bethany Mother and Child Home, at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin Photo: PA

"This was through total uncivilised care of any civilised society."

When Derek was two-years-old a more permanent adoption looked set to happen but that fell through and he had to stay at the Bethany Home, where he became seriously unwell.

He said: "Through the total lack of care I was admitted to the Cork Street Isolation Hospital in Dublin in August 1944.

"I was violently ill and had little hope of coming out alive again, I was so sick but nobody came from the home to visit or to inquire about how I was.

"I was near the point of death with Bronchial Pneumonia, Diptheria, Pertussis, Enteritis.

"The medical staff said that for a child to be in such a terrible condition, they would have to have been abandoned on a manure heap."

Read More: Government rules out redress for mother and baby home residents

Derek feels he was failed by those meant to protect him when he was adopted when he was four by a Wexford family, who he claims were unfit to look after him.

He said: "Nobody cared about who we were adopted by, so long as it was Protestants being adopted by Protestants.

"They had lost a son through Pneumonia and thought they couldn't have any of their own, that's when they adopted me, shortly after I arrived though they had a baby and didn't seem bothered about me after that.

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"They were dysfunctional and unable to care for themselves, I was neglected, my childhood was starvation and rags."
Derek (76) left school aged 13, unable to read or write, he got casual work at a local farm, where he says he was "rarely ever paid."

Derek left Ireland and moved to the UK when he was 18, he is now settled in Rugby, Warwickshire, and has a wife and four children.

He no longer has any relationship with his adoptive family and he said that he met his birth mother before she died but the "gap was too big to breach, she was a victim too."

Derek said that his troubled childhood and teenage years have taken a toll on him mentally and physically.

He said: "I have to live with the effects of my childhood and the lack of care that I had.

"My health has suffered, I have marks on my lungs and Myeloproliferative disorders (a condition that causes the blood cells and platelets to grow abnormally in the bone marrow).

"Plus it affects every aspect of your life, they took a child of its mother and treated it inhumanely, of course it will affect you."
Derek is the founder of The Bethany Home Survivors Group, he has written two books on the topic and was behind the erection of a memorial in Mount Jerome cemetery, where 222 Bethany children were buried in unmarked graves.

Read More: Bethany Home survivor taking case to European court

He is furious that survivors of the Bethany home have yet to receive any compensation.

He said: "We're unable to get any recognition from the State, we've been left to rot.

"For the last 17 years I have made the State aware of our case. The have deliberately ignored me, even though we have more evidence to make our case than any institution have been able to supply...

"If this is not done soon the Protestant Bethany Home People will be very unlikely to see justice done, many of them are in their 70s or 80s now.

Derek Leinster, a former resident of the Bethany children's home, at a service to launch the Bethany Survivors Group55
Derek Leinster, a former resident of the Bethany children's home, at a service to launch the Bethany Survivors Group

"We do have the documents where the State officials in 2007, admitted that the Bethany Home could be added to the list.

"In 2012 the officials implied including the Taoiseach that they would deal with the Bethany Home and the Magdalenes, they done the Magdalene survivors but not the Protestant Bethany people.

"There have been seven enquiries since 1970, all to do with Catholic institutions."
Derek has said that he will never give up trying to get justice.

He said: "I think many Bethany survivors feel they won't get justice in Ireland because it's still a Catholic country but I won't give up until the day I die."

Read More: Mother and Baby Homes inquiry 'does not want extra burden'

A spokesman for the Department of Education said a report into mother and baby homes is due to be published next year.

He said: "The experiences of former residents of the Bethany Home are being investigated by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters.

"The institutions being examined were identified based on criteria which marked them out as mother and baby homes and religious ethos was not a consideration in this process.

"The Commission has made no findings of abuse or neglect in its interim reports to date and its independent investigations are on-going.

"The Government is on record as stating that it cannot take steps which pre-empt the outcome of the Commission's important work.

"The Commission's final report is due in February 2018 at which time the Government will be in a position to respond to the established facts and relating findings on all relevant matters.

"The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has invited former residents of the homes to participate in a facilitated consultation process.

"The first event was held on the 30th June and this process will consider the issues which have already emerged from the investigation to date."

The spokesman also claimed that religion is not a factor when it comes to redress.

Former Bethany Home resident from 1941 to 1945 Derek Leinster and his wife Carol beside unmarked graves at Mount Jerome55
Former Bethany Home resident from 1941 to 1945 Derek Leinster and his wife Carol beside unmarked graves at Mount Jerome

He said: "In relation to eligibility for inclusion in previous redress arrangements through the Residential Institutions Redress Board, it is notable that the Commission's Second Interim Report specifically states that it has seen no evidence that the exclusion of Bethany Homes constituted discrimination on religious grounds.

"The Commission notes that a number of institutions with a Protestant ethos were included in the that scheme."

For more information please see www.bethanygroup98.co.uk

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