Apology for stigmatisation of unmarried mothers

Political parties united in welcoming announcement of investigation

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy: investigation should include issues of forced adoptions

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy: investigation should include issues of forced adoptions

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:00

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference last night apologised “for hurt caused by the church” in terms of its role in society’s “culture of isolation and social ostracising” of unmarried mothers.

The bishops made the remarks in a statement following the Government’s announcement of its intention to set up a commission of investigation into mother and child homes across the State.

“It is disturbing that the residents of these homes suffered disproportionately high levels of mortality and malnutrition, disease and destitution,” they said. “Sadly we are being reminded of a time when unmarried mothers were often judged, stigmatised and rejected by society, including the church.

“This culture of isolation and social ostracising was harsh and unforgiving....We apologise for hurt caused by the church as part of this system. It is important the commission, and all of us, approach these matters with compassion, determination and objectivity.

“We need to find out more about what this period in our social history was really like and to consider the legacy it has left us as a people. Above all we need to enable those who were directly affected to receive recognition and appropriate support.”

The bishops said it was important the commission will have the “necessary legal authority” to examine all aspects of life in the homes. “The investigation should inquire into how these homes were funded and, crucially, how adoptions were organised, processed and followed up,” they added.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on children Robert Troy said the investigation should include the issues of forced adoption, vaccine testing and medical trials.

“Women placed in mother and baby homes were stigmatised and they were treated with scorn by their families, the church and the State. This was wrong, deplorable and they are owed an apology.

“There are families across the state that had grandmothers, aunts or mothers who were in these homes. Memories of what they went through are making them feel very vulnerable and angry when they have nothing whatsoever to feel ashamed about.

“As a society we need to shine a light on this difficult, sensitive and complex issue. All the pieces of this shocking jigsaw should be pulled together so that this era can be assessed in an objective open and fully independent way.”

Sinn Féin’s children spokesman, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said he welcomed the Government’s “pro-activity” in recent days.

“We have known for a long time now that women and children placed by the State under the so-called care of religious orders and other church institutions in this country between the 1920s and the 1970s were treated as the outcasts of society and as non-people,” he said.