Two Northern Irish survivors of Protestant care home in Dublin call for apologies
Two men who lived in a home for unmarried Protestant mothers and their children have called for an apology from the Irish state and the Church of Ireland for their treatment while living there.
78-year-old James Fenning, who lives in Co Antrim and 80-year-old Paul Graham who lives in Sydney both say their lives have been blighted following ill-treatment in the Bethany Home in Dublin.
The home was run by a committee of Protestant clergy and lay people and closed in the 1960s.
Mr Fenning and Mr Graham were both adopted from the home by families in Northern Ireland, according to the BBC.
They met for the first time in Belfast on Sunday and said they felt uplifted to have shared their experiences.
Both men said they have a condition which was caused by severe malnourishment as infants.
Mr Graham said he was emotionally damaged as a result of failed adoptions arranged by the home and Mr Fenning said he was neglected after being "nursed out" to a home with 20 children for 15 shillings.
They've said they have been "discriminated" against as Protestants by the Irish government because redress hasn't been offered to those who lived at the home.
The Bethany Home was excluded from a redress scheme set up by the Irish government in 2009 for those who lived in residential institutions because as a home for mothers and children, it didn't qualify.
An estimated €1.5 billion has been paid to victims of historical abuse in the Republic following a government inquiry but none of that was paid to people who said they were ill-treated at the Bethany Home.
The two men also want an apology from the Church of Ireland for the role they said it played in the home, but the Church denied running or managing the home.
The Bethany Home Survivors Group '98 argue the church consigned women and children to the home.
It received a letter from Ireland's Department of Justice in 2010 which appeared to cast doubt on the church's claim that the home and church were independent of each other.
"The Church of Ireland denies all responsibility," said Mr Fenning, who left the home when he was about four.
"The Dublin government don't think we're fit to get redress, yet all the Catholic homes got redress, so is it discrimination against Protestants?
"If we got a bit of honesty from the Church of Ireland, from the Dublin government, to say 'we hold our hands up, you were cruelly treated in the Bethany home', that would suffice," he said.
The Bethany has now been included in a new inquiry, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, which was set up in 2015 following revelations about the deaths and burial of 800 babies in Tuam, Co Galway.
It's due to submit its final findings in February 2020.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the redress scheme has been closed to new applications since September 2011 and would not be reopened.
They said the scheme was "intended to deal with a very particular circumstance, namely, the abuse of children that occurred while the state was acting to a significant degree in loco parentis, where children had been removed by the state from their parents and placed out of their protection".
Mr Graham was adopted by a wealthy Belfast family in 1944 and eventually ran away from home at the age of 14 to join the Royal Marines.
He later became an alcoholic because of childhood trauma and said one of his first memories is of "rows and rows of cots" at Bethany Home.
Mr Graham called for an apology from the church and the Irish government to apologise and admit it had made mistakes.
"All I want is redress, I just want to be treated the same as any other Irish citizen, I want to be treated as a human being," he said.
He said the authorities had "washed their hands of Bethany and done little to help survivors".
The men are part of a group who have sought recognition for children and infants of Bethany Home since the 1990s
During their campaign, a memorial was erected in a graveyard in Dublin in 2014 on the graves of more than 200 babies and infants from the home that had previously been unmarked.
Many of them are understood to have died from TB and malnutrition.
A Church of Ireland spokesman said Bethany Home was owned and managed by the Dublin Prison Gate Mission.
It said the mission was an "independent trust set up in the 19th Century to work with former prisoners" and was not owned by the Church of Ireland.
"In terms of pastoral outreach, the church has always sought to listen to people in difficulty, including people from various homes and institutions.
"In the case of Bethany Home, the church wrote to the Irish state on behalf of former residents, and asked that their story would be heard as part of the wider investigations being carried out by the state.
"The Irish state responded positively to the request and the home is therefore being considered as part of the remit of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes."
Belfast Telegraph Digital