The Mother and Baby Homes 'represents a damming indictment of church and State'

The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes was released yesterday with a State apology taking place today.

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Image: streetsofdublin.com

The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes paints a grim picture detailing the abuse suffered by our most vulnerable citizens for most of the last century.

The 3,000-page report details the abuse of unmarried mothers and their babies at the hands of both the catholic and protestant church and the State between 1922 and 1998.

The report says that the responsibility for the harsh treatment suffered by women and children “rests mainly with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families.”

It goes on to say that societal norms at the time were “supported and contributed to by the State and the churches”.

While the report says there is no evidence to say women were forced into the homes, it finds that they had no alternative saying the homes “provided refuge” for the women “when their families provided no refuge at all”.

56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children passed through homes during the period examined by the commission. A further 25,000 women and a larger number of children were likely residents of homes that the commission did not examine.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors says that they have mixed feelings about the report saying the people born into institutions or adopted out by “rogue adoption agencies” were not covered by the report.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the report described a “dark, difficult and shameful chapter of recent Irish history” in which an “extraordinarily oppressive culture” had “treated women exceptionally badly”.

Mr Martin said that the report presented “all of Irish society with profound questions”. He stressed that no foreign power had forced Irish society into these actions. “We did this to ourselves,” he said. “All of society was complicit in it.”

A state apology will take place today, Wednesday, January 13, in the Dáil.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said “the report makes clear that for decades, Ireland had a stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture, where a pervasive stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future.

“For decades, Irish society was defined by its silence, and, in that, its complicity in what was done to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Mr O’Gorman said that it would be “appropriate that there is a significant contribution from the religious orders to the costs of redress”, while the Taoiseach added that the orders should make a contribution “especially where lands have been sold” adding that the State’s approach would be “survivor-first”.

The Survivors Coalition said that Minister O’Gorman’s assertion that misogyny is to blame was inaccurate.

“What occurred was but an aspect of the newly established State which was profoundly anti-women both in its laws and in its culture and out of which emerged the Mother and Baby Homes. While it was wrong for families and others to send vulnerable, unmarried, pregnant girls to be incarcerated in Mother and Baby Homes, the homes were handsomely paid by the taxpayers of Ireland.

“We must not overlook the fact that the Government and the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches ran the homes together, hand in glove. What they did represents a damming indictment of church and State.”

The Commission’s Confidential Committee found that sex education in Ireland was practically non-existent. Well into the 1960s, it found that “girls and women were continuing to become pregnant without realising how and why.” There are many accounts of rape resulting in women becoming pregnant.

The report makes a number of recommendations including that an adopted child has the right to information about their birth mother, redress for survivors and compensation for unpaid work.

The report rejects the assertion that Mother and Baby home adoptions should be reclassified as “forced adoptions” while acknowledging that many women did not feel they could refuse to have their babies’ adoptions thereby not giving informed consent.

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