Mother and Baby home survivor calls for Zappone to apologise

by Padraig Conlon
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A survivor of a notorious Dublin Mother and Baby home has accused West Dublin TD and the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, of insulting him and his fellow survivors.

Derek Leinster, who grew up in the Church of Ireland’s Bethany Home in Rathgar, is a veteran campaigner for former residents of the home.

Having founded The Bethany Home Survivors’ Group ’98, Mr Leinster has gone on record many times in the past 20 years to share the horrifying story about the home where children died of malnutrition, heart failure and disease and how the unmarked graves of more than 300 children were discovered in Mount Jerome cemetery.

Last month Minister Zappone – who has deep roots in the local community, having also founded An Cosan education centre some 33 years ago in Jobstown, announced the Government had extended the deadline for The Commission of Investigation of Mother and Baby Homes to deliver its final report by another year.

Despite two decades of campaigning to get the government to extend the same redress offered to survivors of abuse at Catholic institutions, the Bethany survivors have never received any redress.

This means it will not issue its final report until 2020, instead of last year as was originally planned.

The Commission said last year it didn’t see why residents of the Bethany Home were excluded from the State’s 2002 redress scheme.

The Government then announced it wouldn’t make a decision on compensating the Bethany survivors until the Commission delivers its final report on all 20 homes being investigated.

This week, Mr Leinster – who now lives in England – accused Minister Zappone of making “wild statements” and demanded a meeting with her “to get to the truth.”

Speaking to Dublin Gazette, he said: “Minister Zappone’s incorrect statement to the media about the Bethany survivors needs immediate correction. We await her apology.

“We have now been relentlessly bullied by Minister Zappone and all the other ministers before her and their civil servant’s for over 20 years.

“But there are no words that could ever explain the suffering or how any human being could ever allow this ever to happen.

“It is therefore all the more unbelievable for a Minister … to say that there was no proof of harm to me or any of the Bethany survivors.

“Yet despite the mountain of proof, Minster Zappone insults us rather than apologising and doing the right thing before we last few survivors join our fallen crib mates in Mount Jerome cemetery.”

In response to Deputy Clare Daly’s question of how she plans to deal with the redress needs of the ageing mother and baby home survivors, Minister Zappone told the Dail last Thursday, February 21:

“The Commission had made no findings, to date … regarding abuse or neglect, within Mother and Baby Homes, including the Bethany Home.

“Colleagues believed it would not be appropriate to deal with the question of redress in advance of any conclusions by the Commission.”

She continued: “I established the Collaborative Forum of former residents, and Bethany Home survivors are represented in the membership.”

Dublin Gazette contacted Minister Zappone but had received no response to our questions at the time of going to press.

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