Ireland’s prime minister apologized Wednesday after a commission of inquiry released its final report on the harm done to unmarried women and their children in church-run homes in the 20th century.
Micheal Martin’s formal state apology followed the release of the final report of a probe into the deaths of 9,000 children in 18 mother-and-baby homes from 1922 to 1998. These homes provided shelter for women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage.
In Ireland’s lower house of parliament, the Dail, Martin apologized for the country’s “profound and generational wrong” against women and children who should not have been there in the first place.
“The state failed you, mothers and children in these homes,” Martin said Wednesday as he urged the country to show remorse and admit this “dark, difficult and shameful chapter” as part of its history.
About 15% of the children born in the homes died from disease and infections, almost double the nationwide infant mortality rate, the report found.
The report said, “The very high mortality rates were known to local and national authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications,” according to The Associated Press.
“We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy,” Martin said Tuesday, ahead of his formal apology. “Young mothers and their sons and daughters paid a terrible price for that dysfunction.”
Church-run homes in Ireland accommodated orphans, unmarried pregnant women and their babies for much of the previous century. Many unmarried pregnant women were abandoned by their families out of shame or fear of being judged and stigmatized.
Many children were later separated from their mothers for adoption.
The commission noted that while mother-and-baby homes were not unique to Ireland, its quota of unmarried mothers at the homes was unmatched.
The commission said about 56,000 unmarried mothers and about 57,000 children had lived in the homes it investigated.
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