The release of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation in Mother and Baby Homes on Tuesday the 12th January 2021 highlighted the poor practices and conditions of living and treatment that the mothers and babies had received in the mother-and-baby homes between the years 1922 to 1998.
The mother-and-baby homes were institutions run by Catholic nuns and some by the local health authorities to facilitate unmarried women who were pregnant and their babies at the time. Regrettably, the report revealed the cruel tragedy and sadness that engulfed behind the closed doors of these institutions.
President Michael D. Higgins expressed that the State and the Catholic Church must bear “heavy responsibility” for allowing the atrocities that happened in the mother-and-baby homes which violated fundamental human rights for its users, as reported by The Times.
Mr. Higgins continued to express the importance of meeting and addressing the needs and concerns of the survivors. “Our focus now, as a State and as a community, must be to urgently meet the needs of, and address the concerns of the survivors and their families, as they have experienced and expressed them, and do whatever is necessary to support them,” he said.
The report found that the mother-and-baby homes produced a higher infant mortality rate, misogyny and stigmatisation of the women who were pregnant out of wedlock and their babies. During the investigated period of 1922 to 1998, it was found that over 9000 children had died in these mother-and-baby homes, which accounted for almost 15% of all the entrants who entered the homes and relied on the facility. The levels of death in these homes were described as “appaling” in the report, where more than one in 10 children would die. The most prevalent causes of death were found to be respiratory infections and gastroenteritis.
Additionally, many of the women suffered emotional abuse and endured denigration and derogatory remarks in these institutions.
It was also found that some of the institutions were in poor physical conditions, such as the county homes in Pelletstown, Tuam and Kilrush which were owned and run by local health authorities.
Mr. Higgins emphasised that the publication of the report is not merely a conclusion but an indication of a mission that the State and the Church must embark on to further uncover the reason to why and how such atrocities had happened and to “vindicate the rights of those women and children who resided in these homes”.
“This report now follows other reports on institutional abuse and the society that allowed it or offered a colluding silence.”, Mr. Higgins added.
Mr. Higgins shared: “My thoughts must be, as they have been so often before, of the mothers and of the infants who died, of those children who survived and who continue to carry the trauma of their early lives, and beyond that the burden of being deprived of information about their birth parents; of all of those women, alive and dead, who have borne the scars of their experiences, the shame and secrecy imposed upon them, and the life-long burden for so many arising from trauma, bereavement or separation from their children,”
The Most Reverend John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and the Most Reverend Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin, Bishop of Glendalough, and Primate of Ireland, acknowledged the pain and hurt caused to the women and children and described it as “shocking”.
In a joint statement, they expressed ‘We acknowledge with shame that members of the Church of Ireland were complicit, as with the rest of society at that time, in a culture of hypocrisy and judgement which stigmatised women and children and endangered their health and well-being,”
“We are sorry and apologise for the role that our Church played in shaping a society in which unmarried women and their children were treated in this way. They deserved much better.”