Friday, September 10, 2010

Further Redress

The abuse of the industrial school system and Magdalen laundries in Ireland has been well documented and publicly investigated. It turns out that neglect wasn't limited to institutions run by the Catholic Church.

Niall Meehan of Griffith College discovered a trove of unmarked graves at Mount Jerome Cemetery. His investigation showed that the bodies buried there came from Bethany Home, an institution run by members of the Church of Ireland.

Times were hard in Ireland during the Great Depression, made harder by the destructive public policies of Eamon De Valera and his colleagues. That women would turn to prostitution rather than starve would be no surprise. That they were detained in Bethany Home fits the overall pattern of social experimentation that was intended to rebuild Ireland's morality.

So it wasn't just the Catholics who locked up women who strayed from the desired path of prudery and repression. Those who survived Bethany Home would also like to be included in the redress scheme that was initially worked out with Catholic religious orders. The Protestants ask that they, too, be compensated in some small way for the misery inflicted on them by members of their own faith, with the tacit approval of the Irish Free State.

Like the unnamed Maggies whose graves were discovered twenty years ago, so too were infants and women of Bethany Home buried in a cemetery without notification given to the proper authorities.

From Mr. Meehan's probing of old records, he's found that more deaths occurred than were reported, and several of the children who died succumbed to convulsions and malnutrition. The home was required to report incidents of infant mortality, but they didn't. In spite of regulations that required the government to inspect such facilities, nothing was done.

Illegitimate children were adopted out to American families, just as was done in the Catholic-run mother nad baby homes. And just like the Maggies, the government claims that inmates entered voluntarily, and therefore they have no right to redress for the wrongs done.

Except, of course, for those whe were arrested for infanticide or prostitution. For them, Bethany Home was a prison where they were sent to serve their civil sentence.

The past was well-hidden, but public perceptions change over time and the public is no longer so tolerant of lapses by the clergy. Good intentions don't cut it anymore. It's all about the deed, and the deeds of the past are dark and dirty.

There is not enough money in all of Ireland to compensate those who suffered. There is certainly not enough money to run the country. Given time and delay, the victims will die of old age and the problem will solve itself. Doesn't it seem as if that's the government's policy?

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