The Irish State and the Catholic Church of Ireland have apologized for the milestone of operating and enabling a network of religious institutions that abused and shamed unmarried mothers and their children for much of the 20th century.
Taoiseachen, Micheál Martin, on Wednesday led government figures to accept responsibility and express remorse for mother-and-baby homes that turned generations of vulnerable women and infants into outcasts.
Eamon Martin, the Catholic primate throughout Ireland, led statements by bishops and nuns apologizing for the church̵
The apologies followed the publication on Tuesday of a long-awaited report from a forensic commission of inquiry documenting violent abuse, neglect and insensitivity in institutions that served as dumping grounds for unmarried mothers and their children.
Some survivors and opposition politicians said the report did not go far enough to establish criminal guilt in the state and the church, and called for the seizure of church assets unless the institution contributed to a state-run compensation scheme.
The Taoiseachen told Dáil that he accepted that the state bore much responsibility.
“For the women and children who were treated so cruelly, we must do what we can to show our deep remorse, understanding and support. So on behalf of the government, the state and its citizens, I apologize for the profoundly generationally wrong visit to Irish mothers and their children that ended up in a mother and baby home or a county home. ”
About 56,000 women and 57,000 children were placed or born in the homes, mostly run by nuns, from 1922 until the last closed in 1998. Families brought the women to the homes, also referred to as orphanages and adoption agencies, to hide what was considered for shame in pregnancy and childbirth out of wedlock.
The report found no evidence of sexual abuse and little evidence of physical abuse – a version challenged by some survivors – but documented cruelty, intolerance, neglect and a “shocking” infant mortality rate of about double the national average.
“We honored piety, but even failed to show basic kindness to those who needed it most,” Taoiseach said.
The 2,865-page report, compiled over five years, had given the survivors a voice, he said. “Former residents talk about a sense of shame over the situation they were in. The shame was not theirs – it was ours,” he said.
The report received saturation coverage in Ireland and displaced the coronavirus pandemic.
Eamon Martin, Ireland’s oldest church figure, apologized for “disturbing and painful” truths.
He said: “I accept that the church was clearly part of the culture where people were often stigmatized, judged and rejected. For that and for the prolonged injury and emotional distress that has resulted, I apologize without reservation. ”
The investigation was prompted by the revelation that there were no funeral records for nearly 800 children who died at a mother and baby home in Tuam, Galway (county). Excavations subsequently found significant amounts of human remains in a disused septic tank.
The Sisters of Bon Secour’s religious order, which ruled the home, apologized. “We especially acknowledge that infants and children who died in the home were buried in a disrespectful and unacceptable manner. For all that, we are deeply sorry. ”
Catherine Corless, a historian who helped uncover the Tuam scandal, welcomed the apology and urged the nuns to have the human remains excavated and DNA tested.