After a five-year investigation the Commission of Investigation has produced its final report into Mother and Baby homes. The report makes for grim reading and we are faced with confronting one of the darkest and most shameful periods of our history. But confront it we must.
The report reveals a culture of oppression and misogyny. Unmarried mothers and their children were stigmatised and systematically abused over decades. However, the report does disappointingly seem to whitewash over some of the crimes committed and at times appears even to make excuses for those in control of these institutions.
In one section of the report it states ‘Women who gave birth outside of marriage were subject to particularly harsh treatment. Responsibility for that harsh treatment rests mainly with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families. It was supported by, contributed to, and condoned by, the institutions of the State and the churches…However, it must be acknowledged that the institutions under investigation provided a refuge – a harsh refuge in some cases – when the families provided no refuge at all’. This finding and the suggestion from an Taoiseach that we are all responsible for this horrific period of our very recent history is simply an attempt to deflect from the fact the Church and State had a stranglehold on the country, the working class, particularly women were force-fed a diet of fear and terror, misogyny and oppression. A savage and cruel combination of Church and state instilled in communities that unmarried mothers should be treated as subhuman and families were shamed into rejecting their own.
Between 1922 and 1998 9,000 children died in these homes. This amounts to 15% of the 57,000 children in the 18 institutions who were investigated as part of the report. The report describes this as a ‘disquieting’ feature of the homes. Does ‘disquieting’ cover the horror of those numbers? The incredibly high mortality rates were recorded in official publications which means that local and national authorities would have been aware of the numbers. This confirms that there was knowledge of this outside of the institutions and by state run local authorities.
No amount of apologies will ever be enough for the pain and suffering inflicted on so many over such a long period of time. There must be a full criminal investigation into the findings of this report and the Church should have their indemnity removed. Those who inflicted this appalling abuse on these innocent victims must face justice and contribute towards the compensation.
The issue of the influence of the church is still relevant today and this report highlights the urgent necessity of the complete separation of church and state. ‘