UNISON leads calls for orphanage abuse inquiry

Yesterday, UNISON head of organising and chair of the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ICTU) Northern Ireland committee, Pamela Dooley, together with former residents and campaigner Niall Meehan, met deputy first minister Martin McGuinness and the minister for enterprise, trade and investment Arlene Foster to ask for executive support of an investigation into what went on at the Bethany and Westbank orphanages during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

Bethany Home and Westbank were closed in 1972 and 1998 respectively, but left a history of abuse, neglect and abandonment.

Of the many children who passed through the homes during their existence, countless were born to unwed mothers from various Protestant denominations in Northern Ireland.

Numerous children never saw their parents again and some were even illegally moved across borders to Britain and as far afield as the USA.

Unpaid child labour farms were also created in Northern Ireland and various children were paraded in churches and community halls during moneymaking exercises.

UNISON has led the way in raising this issue in the trade union movement. The delegation met the ministers at Stormont after the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU gave its support, followed by full executive support from ICTU.

Both ministers pledged executive support to a call for answers and redress through an investigation under the joint ministerial council of the Good Friday Agreement.