Mother and Baby Homes Commission exposed ‘enormous societal failure’ – Varadkar

Cabinet to meet on Tuesday to before the Taoiseach meets groups of survivors

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: ‘One of the things that really hit me is the extent to which this was an enormous societal failure. an enormous societal shame.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: ‘One of the things that really hit me is the extent to which this was an enormous societal failure. an enormous societal shame.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission exposed an “enormous societal failure” that had led to a “stolen generation of children who didn’t get the upbringing they should have had”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Monday.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters was established by Government in 2015 to provide a full account of what happened to women and children in these homes during the period 1922 to 1998.

The commission investigated 18 former mother and baby homes and produced seven interim reports. The final report is set to be published after it is considered by the Cabinet and the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman meet groups of survivors.

The Taoiseach is set to make a formal State apology to survivors of the mother and baby homes in the Dáil on Wednesday.

On Monday Mr Varadkar said: “One of the things that really hit me is the extent to which this was an enormous societal failure. an enormous societal shame, that we have essentially a stolen generation of children who didn’t get the upbringing they should have had, who were not brought up by their mothers, were not known by their fathers, were not brought up in their own communities, didn’t get the educational opportunities that they should have.”

‘Legitimised leak’

Mr Varadkar said this report was a – belated – opportunity to put this right. Mr Varadkar also criticised the leaking of the report in advance of its publication and before it was given to the survivors. He said the leak was “very, very disrespectful”.

Mr Varadkar denied that the Taoiseach commenting on the leak had “legitimised” the leak. Leaks were a problem and there would be an investigation and the person responsible would be “held to account”, he said. But he acknowledged that “historically” such investigations had not been successful.

The leak appeared to be based on a detailed memo distributed widely last Friday to Ministers, secretaries general, advisers, civil servants “quite a wide group” added the Tánaiste.

“Those who survived those institutions should have been the first to read the report.”

He said it was important to allow the women time to read and digest the report which was “a very long report” and a difficult read.

Testimonies

Mr Varadkar said that the individual testimonies, in particular, had been very upsetting to read.

Speaking on the RTÉ Radio Today with Claire Byrne show Mr Varadkar thanked those who helped prepare it, particularly historian Catherine Corless “who shined a light on this.”

Ms Corless who is known for her work in compiling death certificates for children resident at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Galway, said survivors had felt let down by Government over the leak of the report.

Susan Lohan, co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance also criticised the leaking of details of the report. She said she expects the details within the report to vindicate everything that survivors have said about what happened inside the mother and baby homes. But she warned campaigners had concerns the Government would “trivialise” human-rights issues in mother and baby homes when the Commission’s report is published.