Byline: Galen English
BABIES died of starvation in a Protestant home for unmarried mothers, the Irish Daily Mail has learned.
They were among 40 infants only recently found in a mass grave of children from the Bethany institution in Rathgar, south Dublin.
Disturbing research into the fate of the forgotten children living there reveals how they were forced to suffer appalling Third World conditions.
And yesterday one survivor told how those who ran the home showed 'little care or love for the children'. Some of them found in the mass grave had died of heart attacks, while some others had starved to death.
A painstaking investigation of Church of Ireland and national archive records has uncovered the scale of the child deaths at the former home, which closed in 1972, is much greater than previously thought.
In May, Griffith College academic Niall Meehan discovered the Mount Jerome grave with 40 babies from the home. Since then a trawl of the cemetery's records revealed a further eight unmarked graves, and evidence suggests 28 children are buried elsewhere.
Last night, the Bethany Survivors Group demanded an official investigation into how the home was run.
The group has been excluded from the redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse because the Government claims Bethany Home was privately run. However, the victims say they have fresh evidence directly linking the State to the running of the home .
Survivor Derek Leinster, who has been crippled by health problems since he spent four years at Bethany, after being born there in 1941, said: 'It is no surprise to me that new graves are being discovered because the home was operated by people who showed little care or love for the children. We have documents from the Department of Justice showing they were responsible for the home which means survivors should be compensated under the redress system.'
For 13 years, Bethany operated without inspection because it wasn't required to record deaths until the Registration of Maternity Homes Act in 1934.
And even then, when inspectors from the then Department of Local Government and Public Health raised concerns about conditions at the home in 1939, including a recommendation that one of the foster mothers used by the institution be prosecuted, no action was taken.
The department's assistant chief medical adviser William Sterling Berry dismissed the reports, bizarrely claiming: 'It is well recognised that a large number of illegitimate children are delicate... from their birth.'
However, he did crack down on the management for trying to convert Catholic mothers to Protestantism. …