Bessborough in 2019. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

‘The State failed you’

“Each of you deserved so much better.”

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin has apologised to the survivors of mother and baby homes and county homes on behalf of the State in the Dáil.

On Tuesday the Commission of Investigation’s Mother and Baby Homes Report was finally published.

Speaking yesterday, the Taoiseach described it as a “detailed and highly painful report is a moment for us as a society to recognise a profound failure of empathy, understanding and basic humanity over a very lengthy period”.

Over almost 3,000 pages, the report found an “appalling level of infant mortality” at mother and baby homes and that 9,000 children died in these institutions.

It suggests that the proportion of women in Ireland admitted to such homes was likely to have been the highest in the world in the 20th century.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said: “I apologise for the profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children who ended up in a mother and baby home or a county home. As the Commission says plainly - ‘they should not have been there’.

“I apologise for the shame and stigma which they were subjected to and which, for some, remains a burden to this day.

“In apologising, I want to emphasise that each of you were in an institution because of the wrongs of others. Each of you is blameless, each of you did nothing wrong and has nothing to be ashamed of.

“The Irish State, as the main funding authority for the majority of these institutions, had the ultimate ability to exert control over these institutions, in addition to its duty of care to protect citizens with a robust regulatory and inspection regime. This authority was not exerted and the State’s duty of care was not upheld.

“The State failed you, the mothers and children in these homes,” he said.

The Commission spent five years investigating 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes during the period of 1922 and 1998. In total, there were about 56,000 women and 57,000 children in the 18 institutions. There were many other institutions in Ireland that performed similar roles and therefore there are many more victims whose accounts were not covered in this report.

The Government has committed to introducing information and tracing legislation as a priority, as well as a suite of other measures including an enhanced medical card and counselling will be available to all former residents.

Bishop’s apology

Yesterday Bishop Fintan Gavin, Bishop of Cork and Ross, released a statement. He said sorry and asked for forgiveness and said the report describes a very sad chapter in our Irish history and women and babies were “treated as second-class citizens”.

“Through a culture of fear, judgement and secrecy, women who were pregnant felt isolated and abandoned and had nowhere to turn but to these institutions. I feel a sense of shame and embarrassment for how as a church and a society we failed so often to respond compassionately to their needs.”

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