LONDON – About 9,000 children have died in Ireland’s church-run home for unmarried mothers, a government report released on Tuesday shows. This corresponds to 15 percent of all children born or living in the institutions surveyed for almost 80 years.
The 3,000-page report also described the emotional abuse women experienced in the so-called mother-and-baby homes, especially when they gave birth.
“It seems that there was a little kindness towards them, and this was especially the case when they gave birth,” it said.
The mother-and-baby homes, many run by nuns and members of the Catholic Church, functioned for most of the 20th century, the last home being closed as late as 1
The report found that the responsibility for the harsh treatment of women who gave birth out of wedlock rests primarily with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families. It added, however, that the treatment was supported by, contributed to, and condoned by state institutions and churches.
“We did this for ourselves, we treated women exceptionally badly,” Ireland’s Taoiseach or Prime Minister Micheál Martin told reporters on Tuesday afternoon after the report was released. “The whole community was complicit in it.”
Martin added that the report revealed “significant failures” and should be a catalyst for social change.
The Commission for the Investigation of Mother and Baby Homes also looked into allegations that some children in the homes were used in vaccine trials without parental consent for their participation.
The report identified seven such vaccine trials involving “a number of children” that took place between 1934 and 1973 in the mother-and-baby homes.
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A former resident of one of the houses spoke to NBC News and said she was used as a “guinea pig” for vaccines in a home in Cork before being adopted by a family in Philadelphia in 1961.
The report added that it was clear that there was no compliance with the relevant legislative and ethical standards as consent was not obtained from either the mothers of the children or their guardians and the necessary licenses were not in place.
All the homes surveyed are now closed.
The institutions took over women who had become pregnant out of wedlock, taboo in the conservative country and were seen as an attempt to preserve the country’s faithful Catholic image. Now homes are a watchword for a dark chapter in the nation’s history, say Irish politicians and survivors.
An amateur local historian Catherine Corless first sheds light on the issue of domestic abuse.
She discovered an unmarked mass grave near Tuam in the western county of Galway, which led to a study that uncovered the remains of at least 700 children, buried between 1925 and 1961, a report found in 2017.
Ireland’s Department of Children told NBC News ahead of the publication of the report that it would be “a landmark moment for the many thousands of former residents and their families.”
Prior to publication, details of the report were leaked to the media, leading to riots by the victims – including mother-and-baby survivor Philomena Lee, whose story was portrayed in a 2013 film starring Dame Judi Dench.
Ireland has traditionally been a Catholic stronghold, but decades of abuse scandals have damaged the church’s reputation and weakened its influence.
Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the mother-and-baby-home scandal during his first papal visit to the country in nearly four decades in 2018.
The Clann project, an initiative of surviving groups working to establish the truth about what happened in the homes, said ahead of the report’s release that the government must recognize “the shame and stigma imposed on unmarried mothers and their children through state policy” and practice. “
It also called on the Irish Government to encourage the Catholic Church to acknowledge responsibility and participate in the process of providing compensation to the victims.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Helena Skinner the contribution.