Mother and Baby Homes report describes ‘shameful chapter’ of Irish history

Taoiseach says report presents ‘all of Irish society with profound questions’

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin during a briefing of the Mother and Baby Homes report at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin during a briefing of the Mother and Baby Homes report at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The Mother and Baby Homes report describes a “dark, difficult and shameful chapter of recent Irish history” where an “extraordinarily oppressive culture” had “treated women exceptionally badly”,Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.

Praising the “depth of bravery” shown by survivors, Mr Martin said: “It holds up a mirror to aspects of our past which are shameful and difficult, and from present day perspective, often hard to comprehend.”

Speaking at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said that the report presented “all of Irish society with profound questions”, adding that no “foreign power” forced Irish society into these actions: “We did this to ourselves.

“We treated women exceptionally badly. We treated their children exceptionally badly. We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for that dysfunction.

“As a society we embraced judgmentalism, moral certainty a perverse religious and control which was so damaging . . . but what is so striking is the absence of basic kindness.”

“One hard truth in all of this is that all of society was complicit in it,” Mr Martin said. “We are going to need to confront and come to terms with this as a people.”

Brutality

Minister for Children, the Green Party’s Roderic O’Gorman said that the report was “a harrowing work” which described places of “callousness, brutality and shame”.

It presented a portrait of a “stifling, oppressive and deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland prior to the 1970s, one “ruthlessly enforced by the prevailing attitudes within the church, within the State and within wider society”.

He said it was “difficult to conceive” of the scale of the tragedy behind the child mortality figures from the Mother and Baby Homes in the period examined, which showed that 15 per cent of the children born there, or some 9,000 children, died.

“The State failed time and again to protect some of its most vulnerable citizens,” Mr O’Gorman said.

He said the Government accepted the recommendations of the report and that it would publish an action plan which laid out the steps it would take in the coming months.

He said there would be a package of health supports, counselling, records, exhumation, restorative recognition scheme, ex gratia payments groups to be set up, and a State apology.

Mr Martin confirmed that the apology would take place in the Dáil tomorrow as planned.

Both Mr Martin and Mr O’Gorman said that religious orders who ran the Mother and Baby Homes should make a contribution to the costs of any redress scheme. Mr Martin added that the Catholic Church should examine the report carefully and consider making its own apology for the management of the homes.

Mr O’Gorman said that it would be “appropriate that there is a significant contribution from the religious orders to the costs of redress”, while the Taoiseach added that the orders should make a contribution “especially where lands have been sold”.

Mr O’Gorman said that his department would convene a group to draw up proposals for a redress scheme for residents of the homes and would bring forward its proposals by April 30th of this year.

Pressed about a contribution from the religious orders, the Taoiseach said that the Government approach would be “survivor-first”. The Taoiseach also said that the report has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.