Report gives glimpse into horrors of Ireland’s mother and baby homes
A government-commissioned report released Tuesday found a shocking number of deaths and widespread abuses at religious institutions in Ireland for unwed mothers and their children.
The report, the culmination of a six-year investigation, detailed some 9,000 deaths of children at 14 of the country’s so-called mother and baby homes and four county homes over several decades, a mortality rate far higher than the rest of the population. The institutions, where unmarried women and girls were sent to give birth in secrecy and were pressured to give their children up for adoption, were also responsible for unethical vaccine trials and traumatic emotional abuse, the report found.
Ireland’s leader, or Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, at a news conference said the report outlined a “a dark, difficult and shameful chapter” of the country’s past, acknowledging significant failures by the state, society and church.
Survivors of the homes say urgent action by the state is needed, and many say the Roman Catholic Church, which ran the homes, needs to be held fully accountable.
The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors said it was disappointed in the “fundamentally incomplete” nature of the final report.
The church had been silent on the issue in the past, but late Tuesday, Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and the head of the Irish Catholic Church, issued an apology. The church, he said, was clearly part of a culture in which people “were frequently stigmatized, judged and rejected.”
Micheal Martin and the country’s minister for children, Roderic O’Gorman, spoke with survivors earlier in the afternoon by video to discuss the contents of the report, which is more than 3,000 pages. Martin said he would issue an official state apology in front of Parliament on Wednesday, and O’Gorman pledged that the government was committed to working with survivors.
Mother and baby homes were run by religious orders, starting in the 1920s, and funded by the Irish government. The last of the facilities was closed in
The commission focused on 18 institutions between 1922 to 1998 and was set up after reports emerged that the remains of nearly 800 babies and children were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a home run by nuns in the town of Tuam in County Galway.
The report detailed how 56,000 unmarried mothers and about 57,000 children came through the homes investigated by the commission during a 76-year period.
“In the years before 1960 mother and baby homes did not save the lives of ‘illegitimate’ children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival,” the report said.