DUBLIN (Reuters) – Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin formally apologised on Wednesday for the state’s “profound failure” in its treatment of unmarried mothers and their babies in a network of Catholic Church-run homes from the 1920s to the 1990s.
A government-commissioned report published on Tuesday found an “appalling” mortality rate of around 15% among children born at the homes, reflecting brutal living conditions. Around 9,000 children died in all.
“On behalf of the government, the state and its citizens, I apologise for the profound generational wrong visited upon Irish mothers and their children who ended up in a Mother and Baby Home or a County Home,” Martin told parliament.
“I apologise for the shame and stigma which they were subjected to and which, for some, remains a burden to this day,” Martin said. “The state failed you.”
The report detailed how many infants were taken from mothers and sent overseas to be adopted, while a number of children were vaccinated without consent.
Anonymous testimony from residents compared the institutions to prisons where they were verbally abused by nuns, while women suffered through traumatic labours without any pain relief.
Relatives have alleged babies were mistreated because they were born to unmarried mothers who, like their children, were seen as a stain on Ireland’s image as a devout Catholic nation. The inquiry said those admitted included girls as young as 12.
A coalition of survivors’ groups on Tuesday said the report was “truly shocking”, but it had mixed feelings because it did not fully account for the role the state played in running the homes and in separating single mothers from their babies.
The head of the Irish Catholic Church on Tuesday “unreservedly” apologised for its role.
The religious order that ran a care home for unmarried mothers in the Irish town of Tuam, where almost 800 children died, on Wednesday said the order “did not live up to our Christianity when running the Home.”
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Mike Collett-White)