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Taoiseach apologised to survivors of mother and baby homes on behalf of Government, State and citizens

DUBLIN: Taoiseach Micheal Martin has apologised to the survivors of mother and baby homes on behalf of the Government, the State and citizens. The Taoiseach made confession to the grief and pain of the families of the survivors at a press conference officially releasing the final report of the Commission of Investigation.

“On behalf of the Government, the State and its citizens, 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,” Taoiseach said.

“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,” he added.

“The lack of respect for your fundamental dignity and rights as mothers and children who spent time in these institutions is humbly acknowledged and deeply regretted.”

“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.”

“It is the duty of a republic to be willing to hold itself accountable, to be to willing to confront hard truths and except parts of our history which are deeply uncomfortable. This 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. Its production has been possible because of the depth of courage shown by all those who shared their personal experiences with the commission.”

“The most striking thing is the shame felt by women who became pregnant outside of marriage and the stigma that was so cruelly attached to their children. Testimonies from the women speak of the pressure to make sure that no one in their locality would find out about their pregnancy. One speaks of not being allowed to return to school after becoming pregnant because it would bring shame on the school,” the Taoiseach added.

Mr. Martin also cited some testimonies of the survivors. “Children born outside of marriage were stigmatised and were treated as outcasts in school and in wider society. Some children who were subsequently boarded-out experienced heartbreaking exploitation, neglect and abuse within the families and communities in which they were placed. This was unforgivable,” he said.

The 2,865-page report chronicles the experiences of women and children who lived in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes between 1922 and 1998. The report confirms that 9,000 children died in 18 homes – 15% of the children who were in institutions. Prior to 1960, these homes did not save the lives of children born illegally. The very high mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and have been officially recorded.

The report “shames” the entire Irish society – Tanáiste

Tanáiste Leo Varadkar also apologized to the survivors of the Mother and Baby Home tragedy. He also thanked Catherine Corless for his efforts in bringing the incident to light.

“As Tanáiste, as a former Taoiseach, and as a member of the Government that established this Commission, I want to offer my own apology to the children who were hidden away, treated as a commodity, or as second-class citizens and to the mothers who for whom there was no other option but to give up their child.”

Tanáiste said the report was a disgrace to the entire Irish community.

“Woman pregnant outside of marriage, some very young, some victims of rape, were not supported by their families or by the father of the child.

“They were forced to turn to the Church and State for refuge, and while they got a refuge it was a cold and often cruel one. Church and State ran these homes together, operating hand in glove, equally culpable, and did so with the full knowledge and acquiescence of wider society. Church and State re-enforced social prejudice and judgement when they should have tried to change it,” the Tánaiste said.

Today, we understand a little better the tears that were shed over many decades by those who were judged so harshly, by those who had their human rights taken away. We cannot change the past, but we can rededicate ourselves to giving people their truth,” Mr. Varadkar said.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said a recommendation on the details of compensation for the survivors would be submitted to the government by the end of April.

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