Taoiseach Micheál Martin issues apology to Mother and Baby Homes survivors
"The State's duty of care was not upheld, the State failed you."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has issued an apology to the survivors of Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes.
Speaking to the Dáil this afternoon, Martin said the treatment of the women and children admitted to these homes was a "direct result" of the State's actions and that of its citizens.
"It is the duty of a Republic to hold itself to account, to confront the hard truth and accept parts of our history that are deeply uncomfortable," he said.
"The dominate role of the church and their moral code lays bare the failures of the State [...] how this country responded to the needs of single women and their children when they most needed support and protection.
"This should have been forthcoming from fathers, family, and friends, their community, and their State, but so often was not."
Martin said that the pain caused by the Mother and Baby Homes was "the direct result of how the State and we as a society acted."
"The most striking thing is the shame felt by women who became pregnant outside of marriage and the stigma attached to their children" and the "unfair judgement and life long prejudice," he said.
"We embraced the perverse religious morality and control. We honoured piety but failed to show even basic kindness to those who needed it most. We had a warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy.
Martin said that the "depth of courage" of survivors has allowed for the voices of the Mother and Baby Homes to finally come to light.
"For the women and children who were treated so cruelly, we must do what we can to show our deep remorse," he said.
"On behalf of the government, its State and its citizens, I apologise for the profound generational wrong [...] I apologise for the shame and stigma they were subjected to, for some which remain a burden to this day.
"Each of you were in an institution because of the wrongs of others, each of you did nothing wrong. Each of you deserve so much better [...] The State's duty of care was not upheld, the State failed you.
"An apology is not enough, and we collectively in this house will be judged by our actions."
This comes following a report from the Commission of Investigation into the lives of the women and children who lived in Ireland's Mother and Baby Homes between 1922 and 1998.
The long-waited report found that there was an "appalling" level of infant death at the homes, with 9,000 children, or 15%, dying in the institutions under investigation.
56,000 women and 57,000 children were admitted to the mother and baby homes between this period. It is believed that the proportion of women admitted to these homes was likely the highest in the world in the 20th century.
According to the report, many of the women admitted were "destitute" having been rejected by their families or the father of their unborn babies. The women and girls ranged in age from 12 to upwards of 40 years.
"Their lives were blighted by pregnancies outside of marriage and the responses of the father of their child, their immediate families and the wider community," it reads.
The report also states that there is "no evidence" to suggest that women were "forced" into mother and baby homes by the Church or State. Rather, they felt they had nowhere else to go and "the mother and baby homes gave some assurance that their secret would be protected."
After giving birth, many women reported feeling pressured by family members or by mother and baby home staff to give their child up for adoption. Many women also suffered traumatic birth experiences, with many being uninformed about the process before it was happening.
Catherine Corless, the historian whose work discovered the bodies of nearly 800 children in a mass grave in Tuam, said prior to Martin's statement that an apology "is words."
She added that survivors need an "immediate follow up" to address recommendations made.