Mother and Baby Homes report: Main findings and recommendations

Responsibility for harsh treatment lies with fathers and families backed by State and churches

A view of shoes left by Mother and Baby Homes protesters at Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

A view of shoes left by Mother and Baby Homes protesters at Phoenix Park, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes published its long-anticipated report on Tuesday. It investigated decades of harm caused to tens of thousands women and children at 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes across Ireland between 1922 and 1998.

Findings

*Fathers and families Responsibility for the harsh treatment of unmarried mothers in Ireland lies mainly with the fathers of the children and “their own immediate families” but supported by and condoned by the State and the churches. It says many of the homes provided a refuge, even if harsh, while the families provided no refuge at all.

*No alternative The report finds no evidence that women were forced to enter the homes by the church or State It says most women had no alternative. Many women contacted State or church agencies seeking assistance as they had nowhere to go and no money. Women were also brought to homes by family without being consulted.

*Infant mortality Some 9,000 children died in mother and baby homes, around 15 per cent of all those who entered the institutions, the report found. In the years 1945-46, the death rate among infants in mother and baby homes was almost twice that of the national average for “illegitimate” children. The commission said the high rate of infant mortality was a “disquieting” feature.

*Little public concern The report found little evidence that politicians or the public were concerned about children in the homes, despite the “appalling level of infant mortality”.

*Unmarried mothers There were about 56,000 unmarried mothers and about 57,000 children in the homes investigated by the commission. While such institutions were found in other countries the proportion of unmarried mothers sent to homes in Ireland was probably the highest in the world.

*Abuse of women The report finds while “there is no doubt that women in mother and baby homes were subjected to emotional abuse but there is very little evidence of physical abuse and no evidence of sexual abuse”.

*Abuse of children It said there was some evidence of physical abuse of children “which, while unacceptable, was minor in comparison to the evidence of physical abuse documented in the Ryan report.” The report found no evidence of any sexual abuse of children.

*Pregnancies Some pregnancies were the result of rape; some women had mental health problems, some had an intellectual disability and the only difference with other women not in homes was that they were unmarried. It said their lives were “blighted” by pregnancy outside marriage.

*Local health authorities Some institutions with the worst conditions were owned by the local health authorities. “County homes, Kilrush and Tuam had appalling physical conditions.”

Recommendations

*Records Adopted people should have a right to their birth certificates and birth information. A mechanism could be put in place to allow a birth mother to argue for her privacy rights.

There should be a central repository of the records of institution so information can be obtained from one place.

There are no records of burials of children who died in many cases, it finds.

*Redress Any decision on financial redress is a matter for Government, the commission said.

– But as some groups in similar situations have received financial redress the State should not discriminate, it said.

– Women who worked outside the institutions without pay, women in the Tuam home in Co Galway who had to care for other mothers’ children and those who looked after other residents in county homes should be compensated.

– Women who spent lengthy periods in homes should also be considered for redress.

*Fund The Government could consider earmarking a specific fund for current disadvantaged children.

*Tusla The commission defended the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) and its approach to providing information to adopted people. It said the problem was not with Tusla but with the law.

Additional reporting PA