Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Questions (237)

Mary Lou McDonald


237. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will include the survivors of Bethany Home in the Magdalen laundry redress mechanism noting the principle of due diligence which provides that where State authorities knew of actual human rights abuses by the non-State sector, as recorded, for example, during State inspections of Bethany under the Registration of Maternity Homes Act, and failed to take appropriate steps to prevent the violations or investigate and punish the perpetrators then the State bears the responsibility for the violations. [10706/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

One of the original charities associated with Bethany Home was established to assist women recently released from prison, hence my Department's interest. While we do not have full details, we have reason to believe that women prisoners on release from prison did go there. It would also appear that women convicted of criminal offences might agree to reside there as an alternative to a term of imprisonment. It was designated under section 108 of the Children Act 1908 for female, non Catholic children under 17 years, charged with criminal offences who might be remanded there or ordered to be kept there for a period not exceeding one month.

Bethany Home was not a prison and did not have any of the restrictions normally associated with such an institution. From the 1930s it was based in a house in Orwell Road, Rathgar. My Department has not received any complaints regarding the treatment of any of the females who were there and who had links with the criminal justice system. If the Deputy has any evidence of specific abuses with relation to this category of people, I would be happy to receive it.

While this aspect of their work with women from the criminal justice system continued after the establishment of the Bethany Home, it would appear that the vast majority of its work (over 90%) related to maternity cases and acting as a home for infants up to three years old. There were a significant number of Mother and Baby homes including the Bethany Home operating in the State at the time.

However Mother and Baby homes do not have any of the characteristics associated with a Magdalen Laundry - that is women working without pay in a laundry in an enclosed institution. Magdalen Laundries did not accept pregnant women or young infants. I understand that the Bethany Survivors Group do not argue that their situation is identical to that of the Magdalen Laundry survivors.

The question of the inspection of maternity homes falls to the Department of Health.

If the Deputy has any information that criminal offences having been committed, she should report the matter to the Gardaí for investigation.