Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called on the religious orders associated with mother and baby homes to make a “financial contribution” to a redress scheme for survivors.
It comes as it emerged the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes report has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for review.
Speaking at the launch of the report, the Taoiseach said the gardaí can “obviously” pursue some of the issues outlined in the commission’s investigation even though a significant length of time has elapsed.
He specifically highlighted that many of the women in the homes were under the age of consent when they became pregnant.
The Taoiseach will today make a State apology in the Dáil to the survivors of mother and baby homes.
Yesterday, Mr Martin said the investigation into 18 institutions for unmarried mothers opened up a window to the “deeply misogynistic” culture in Ireland where there was “serious systematic discrimination against women”.
“We did this to ourselves as a society,” said Mr Martin, before adding: “We treated women exceptionally badly. We treated children exceptionally badly.”
Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman echoed his comments saying the report on the homes shows a “stifling, oppressive, deeply misogynistic” culture in Ireland prior to the 1970s. “We have to be honest about acknowledging State responsibility,” he added.
The shocking report states Ireland had more women and children living in State-run homes for unmarried mothers than anywhere else in the world.
It also finds that 56,000 women were forced to live in refuges since the foundation of the State in 1922 because they were abandoned by the fathers of their children and their families.
The more than five-year investigation led by Justice Yvonne Murphy found the responsibility for the “harsh treatment” endured by these women “rests mainly with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families” but was also supported by the State and Church.
“However, it must be acknowledged that the institutions under investigation provided a refuge – a harsh refuge in some cases – when the families provided no refuge at all,” the report adds.
The harrowing report details how 57,000 children were born in mother and baby homes until they were closed in 1998. Shockingly, 9,000 died while in their care.
Of even more concern is the death rate among children deemed “illegitimate” by society was far higher than those deemed “legitimate”, according to the report.
Between 1945 and 1946 the death rate among children in the homes was almost twice the national average of those outside these institutions.
The report reveals the high infant mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications.
Children suffered physical abuse in the homes and also emotional abuse from local residents in their communities because they were raised in the institutions. However, the report does not find incidents of sexual abuse towards the children.
The women living in these homes suffered emotional abuse and were regularly subjected to “denigration and derogatory remarks”.
“It appears that there was little kindness shown to them and this was particularly the case when they were giving birth,” the report says.
“The atmosphere appears to have been cold and seemingly uncaring,” it adds.
The women were offered no counselling and were warned not to share their stories with other residents.
The commission said there was little evidence of the mothers being physically abused and no evidence of sexual abuse.
However, it found 200 women died in these homes with more than half (57pc) related to child birth. During the 1950s, there were also a significant number of deaths related to infectious diseases.
The commission raised serious questions about the failure of the government and local authorities to intervene and address the living conditions and discrimination suffered by those living in these State-supported institutions.
It also found no evidence of the cabinet ever discussing the plight of mother and baby home residents in the first 50 years after Ireland gained its independence. It was not until the introduction of new adoption laws that some women were able to leave or avoid staying long-term in the homes.
The introduction of the Unmarried Mother’s Allowance in 1973 was the first time any financial support was given to single women facing these conditions.
At least 1,638 children from the homes investigated were put up for adoption, with the vast majority sent to the US.
The report includes allegations that significant money was exchanged between Church authorities and adoptive parents but the commission was unable to prove or disprove the veracity of the claims.
At least seven vaccine trials were carried out in homes with children involved in some of the tests without consent.
Source: Irish News