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Bethany Home story to be brought to big screen

It was the film that put the plight of the abuse suffered by former residents of the infamous Magdalene Laundries into the public eye.

Now a filmmaker is hoping her latest project on the lesser-known Bethany Home will emulate the success of 2002 movie The Magdalene Sisters and help its survivors in their quest for justice.

The movie will tell the life story and include the decades-long battle of one of the few remaining survivors of the Protestant-run former institution for unmarried mothers to receive compensation.

Former residents of the Bethany Home, from where the bodies of 28 children who died are still unaccounted for, have never been financially compensated, as they were excluded from the recently-closed Redress Scheme.

But survivors argue that the levels of neglect and abuse at the centre – which hit the headlines in 2010 after 219 unmarked graves of former child residents were discovered – were on a par with those of the many Catholic-run institutions which qualified for redress.

And they claim they have been continually snubbed simply because they were Protestant.

But former resident Derek Leinster, who will be the main subject of the biographical movie which will chronicle his early childhood and long-running campaign for justice, says he hopes the film will finally shame the Government into action.

Italian filmmaker Eleonora Volpe said she felt inspired to make a movie about Bethany, having read the book Hannah’s Shame, which chronicles 70-year-old Mr. Leinster’s life story, including his 20-year search for his birth mother, Hannah.

The Drogheda, Co. Louth-based director has since sent a proposal to the Irish Fim Board in the hope of securing funds for the project and is working on developing a script.

Ms. Volpe, who has been invloved in film and documentary production since 1985, said she believes the movie, which she plans to film in Co. Wicklow as early as next summer, has the potential for global success, as it contains such “a powerful story”.

She said:  “Derek Leinster will be the central character in the film and once we’ve got the funding and start filming, I plan to use five or six actors to portray him at different ages.

“It’s an inspiring story and one of great resilience.  I’d hope the film would help Mr. Leinster and the other survivors get the publicity they need to help them in their fight.  But I’d be even happier if they got justice even sooner and I’d be able to give the movie a happy ending.”

Mr. Leinster, who’s based in Warkwickshire in Britain, said:  “I’m never going to give up in the quest for justice and the film will add a lot of awareness and help make things happen for us.  The world needs to know that it wasn’t just the Catholics in Ireland who suffered.”

Bethany survivors suffered a number of setbacks in their fight for compensation last year – most recently when their demands to be included in a new investigation – set up to examine the State’s involvement in the Magdalene Laundries – were turned down in October by the Irish Government.

Mr. Leinster has since vowed to take the case to the United Nations.

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