Taoiseach – mother and baby homes a ‘dark chapter’

Ireland had displayed a ‘warped’ attitude to sexuality and intimacy, Micheal Martin added.

Taoiseach – mother and baby homes a ‘dark chapter’

The mother and baby homes scandal is a dark chapter in Ireland’s history, the Taoiseach said.

Ireland displayed a “warped” attitude to sexuality and intimacy, Micheal Martin added.

The homes were for mothers who fell pregnant out of wedlock but produced high levels of infant mortality, misogyny and stigmatisation of some of society’s most vulnerable.

Mr Martin is to make a formal apology to victims on Wednesday.

“It holds up a mirror to aspects of our past, which are painful and difficult, and from the present-day perspective, often hard to comprehend,” he said.

He added: “While this report will obviously have the most direct impact on survivors and their families, it presents all of Irish society with profound questions.

“We did this to ourselves, as a society.”

He said the State treated women badly and children especially badly.

“We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy.

“Young mothers and their sons and daughters paid a terrible price for that dysfunction.”

Some of the institutions were owned and run by the local health authorities – the county homes, Pelletstown, Tuam and Kilrush.

Others were owned and run by religious orders, for example the three homes run by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary – Bessborough, Sean Ross, Castlepollard (the Sacred Heart homes).

Some of the institutions were in very poor physical condition.

Many of the women did suffer emotional abuse and were often subject to denigration and derogatory remarks, the commission of investigation said.

Mr Martin said the most distressing aspect of the report was the “exceptionally high rate of infant mortality”.

He added: “It’s production is a testament to the bravery of survivors and their advocates and their dedication to ensuring that as a nation, we must face up to the full truth of our past.”

Probe into mother and baby homes
Catherine Corless exposed the ‘terrible scandal’ of the Tuam mother and baby home in the west of Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “I particularly want to acknowledge the critical role played by Catherine Corless, a tireless crusader for dignity and truth, whose work at the mother and baby homes site led to the establishment of this commission.”

Children’s Minster Roderic O’Gorman said the report makes clear that the homes were “places of callousness, of brutality and of shame”.

He said: “It paints a portrait of a stifling and oppressive, and a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland, prior to the 1970s.

“That this culture was ruthlessly enforced by the prevailing attitudes within the Church, within the State, within wider society.

“And that this directly and repeatedly led to women being deprived of choice and agency in their own affairs through coercion, through faith, through shame, and through family obligation.

“That shame and stigma has had appalling consequences for many of the children that were born to those mothers, particularly during the 1940s and the 1950s, when infant mortality rates in the homes were extremely high.”

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