Founder of Rotunda Hospital remembered at 300th anniversary commemoration
A service to mark the tercentenary of the birth of Dr Bartholomew Mosse, founder of the Rotunda Hospital – one of Dublin’s three main maternity hospitals – took place recently in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
The Rotunda was founded by Mosse in 1745 and was originally known as ‘The Dublin Lying-In Hospital’. It was located in an old theatre in George’s Lane, before moving to its present site on Parnell Square in 1757.
The hospital’s main building was designed by the renowned architect, Richard Cassels, whose other works included Leinster House, Russborough House and Powerscourt House.
The service was led by the Dean of St Patrick’s, the Very Revd Victor Stacey, who welcomed the large congregation and, in his opening remarks, highlighted the links between the Rotunda and the Cathedral.
In his address, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, outlined the history of Bartholomew Mosse, a surgeon and manmidwife, and his efforts to build an institution where babies could be delivered safely and doctors and midwives trained in the art of midwifery.
THE McALEESE REPORT
Before his very moving State apology to the Magdalene survivors, Taoiseach Enda Kenny both studied the McAleese Report on the Magdalene laundries and talked to survivors, hearing them speak for themselves. Those survivors who have been heard by the public in the media have left deep impressions; all those who have heard them have surely felt humbled by their words and also have felt an immense respect for all the survivors of the laundries.
The regime that was typically experienced by the survivors was shocking and it is to the Government’s credit that a full report into State involvement in the laundries was commissioned and that the President of the Law Reform Commission, Judge John Quirke, has now been asked to make recommendations as to the criteria to be applied in assessing the help that the Government can provide to survivors in terms of payments and other supports.
In his landmark Dáil speech last week, Mr Kenny told the Magdalene women: “What we address today is how you took this country’s terrible ‘secret’ and made it your own – burying it, carrying it in your hearts here at home or with you to England and to Canada, America and Australia on behalf of Ireland and the Irish people. But from this moment on, you need carry it no more because today we take it back.”
The Taoiseach’s speech recalled a former Ireland where there was a certain moral oppression – he referred to this as “moral subservience”. It was an Ireland where taking a different moral view from that of the Establishment simply was not acceptable. This Ireland was, as the Taoiseach said, lacking “a quality of mercy”. It is, of course, often not right to pass judgement on earlier generations by applying the standards of today, but no one can consider the conditions and treatment of people in the Magdalene laundries to have been in any way acceptable by any of the standards that endure from generation to generation.
Mercy is mercy, no matter when, no matter where. The Magdalene laundries regime was an assault on the very humanity of those who lived in them, but the Government has now done right by the heroic survivors. It is entirely understandable that survivors of Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland now wish to receive parallel treatment – and so they should.
Issues surrounding the former Bethany Home – a mother and child institution run by Protestants in Dublin from 1922-1972 and used by the State as a place of detention – came to the fore again last week (report, page 4). By coincidence, in the same week as the Magdalene laundries cause took the headlines – although they were in a different category of institution – the Chair of the Bethany Survivors Group, Derek Leinster, who now lives in England, was in Dublin to lobby with the Group for its concerns to be met, particularly State redress.
While the Bethany Home was not run by the Church of Ireland, Church of Ireland figures were involved in its management, along with members of other Protestant Churches. It was opened in 1922 by the then Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Gregg. However, the Secretary of the Bethany Survivors Group, Niall Meehan, told the Gazette last Friday (22nd February) that his comment on the previous day on RT É’s Morning Ireland programme, asking for the Church of Ireland to pay compensation along with the State due to failure of care at the home, had been made “when pressed”, confirming that financial compensation from the Protestant Churches was not, in fact, a demand of the Group. However, we were told that the Group is seeking assistance from the Protestant Churches in raising funds for a memorial to be erected at Mount Jerome cemetery for the 219 mainly Protestant children who died in the Bethany Home and were buried at Mount Jerome in unmarked graves.
The Archbishop of Dublin has helpfully called for an inquiry into the Bethany Home; such an inquiry would be an important preliminary to consideration for State redress and it is good to know, as the Gazette has also been informed, that the Archbishop of Armagh has written to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter asking that he conduct such an inquiry. However, quite apart from this, the Protestant Churches together surely have it within their capacity to help raise funds for an agreed form of memorial, particularly when financial compensation is explicitly not being sought from them. In fact, if a memorial were erected without such support, especially when it has been requested, it would be unfortunate to say the least. The Archbishop of Dublin has already appealed for individuals to contribute to the Bethany Fund and has drawn representatives of a number of denominations together to consider the Bethany Home issue. A further such consultation is understood to be planned; that consultation should establish a designated inter-Church task force to address the request from the Bethany Survivors Group without delay.
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- Secretary-General takes journalist to task over Bethany Home issue
The Church of Ireland’s Secretary-General, Adrian Clements, who took up office last year, has told the Gazette that a claim by Irish Examiner columnist Victoria White that there had been a “slaughter” of infants at the former Bethany Home, run from 1922-1972 by Protestants in Dublin, was “horrifying”.
The home catered for unmarried mothers and their children and was also used by the State as a place of detention.
Mr Clements said that Ms White’s claim was so horrifying that in a letter sent by the Church of Ireland in reply to her 3rd January article, a call was included for anyone with relevant information about the home to forward details to the office of the Minister for Education.
Ms White had also stated in her article that the Church of Ireland “is clearly implicated” in the deaths of infants at the former Bethany Home.
However, Mr Clements told the Gazette: “The Bethany Home, Rathgar, was an independent trust, not run by the Church of Ireland.”
He said that in its reply to Ms White’s article, the Church had confirmed that it did not run the Bethany Home. “The home was run by two charities, the Prison Gate Mission and the Dublin Midnight Mission, which amalgamated their work in 1922 to form the Bethany Home,” Mr Clements told us.
He added: “The founding documents and first annual report of the home state that the home was inter-denominational in management and outreach, independent of all Churches.”
However, the Secretary- General went on to say that the Church of Ireland was aware of allegations of neglect at the home, made by the Bethany Survivors Group, and indicated that the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin and the Church of Ireland’s Child Protection Office had written to the State to request a review of the home.
The Secretary of the Bethany Survivors Group, Niall Meehan, last week told the Gazette that Ms White’s use of the term “slaughter” was “journalistic inference” and in the circumstances not unreasonable, the Group holding that there had been deliberate neglect at the home, with “too many infants dying in too short a time”.
Over one-third of the 219 deaths of Bethany Home infants buried in unmarked graves at Dublin’s Mount Jerome cemetery took place during 1935-1939, after the initiation of the inspection regime under 1934 Maternity Act, and over three-fifths during 1935-1944, Mr Meehan told us.
The Bethany Survivors Group told the Gazette last Friday (22nd February) that, on the previous Monday, it had had a “productive” meeting with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson.
Talking to the Gazette editor at Dublin’s North Star Hotel, the Group said it was demanding financial compensation from the State, but not from the Protestant Churches. (Editorial, page 2)
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Letters to the Editor
Same Sex Marriage
Your editorial (15th February) on same-sex marriage includes some straw men and red herrings.
As regards procreation, when the three-fold description of Anglican marriage was re-ordered in The Book of Common Prayer in 2004 to give priority to the comfort and mutual help of the couple, I do not recall anyone protesting that this was downgrading procreation.
The editorial even concedes that having children has not been a condition for marriage.
Many same-sex couples whom I know personally have children and fears for families like this are sadly based on ignorance.
Talk of “complementarity of male and female” is vague. It is also an argument that has been used to justify patriarchy and to deny access by women to the priesthood and the episcopacy.
Concerns that clergy might be required to officiate at same-sex civil marriages are unnecessarily alarmist. Specific legal safeguards are provided in the UK legislation.
Christian Churches have long been allowed legally to discriminate, e.g. the Roman Catholic Church’s exclusion of women.
Worries that “schoolteachers would have to instruct children in a meaning of marriage that teachers could not conscientiously bring themselves to impart” are also exaggerated. Even in conservative Ireland, for decades, the teaching profession has never had any problems teaching that marriages may not in practice be permanent but may end in divorce and remarriage.
The biggest red herring in the editorial is the remark on adultery in the draft legislation. Because adultery has been legally defined in terms of sex with the opposite sex, the obvious legal solution is to clarify that adultery may involve sex with a member of either sex. That said, I have no difficulty with equal standards of sexual morality being expected of same-sex and heterosexual couples, i.e. permanent, faithful relationships.
Finally, to argue that a civil partnership is more acceptable than a civil marriage because legally it is not defined in terms of a sexual relationship is to be in denial that a civil partnership is just as likely to be a sexual relationship as a marriage is.
Few of us, gay and heterosexual, are called to celibacy. To pretend that civil partnerships are more akin to siblinglike relationships than to marriage is naïve and a disrespect to the true nature of our intimate, committed, same-sex relationships.
Richard O’Leary (Dr) Holywood Co. Down BT18
Closure of Sunday School Resource Centre
I’m very sorry to hear that the Sunday School Resource Centre in Rathmines is closing (Gazette report, 22nd February).
The staff have offered a friendly service and it has been extremely useful to be able to have items delivered by post.
May I take this opportunity to thank them all for their help over the years and wish them well for the future.
Ruth Gill (The Revd) Kilgolan House Kilcormac Birr Co. Offaly
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