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Rape and incest victims put in homes for unmarried mothers and their children

Women claimed they were subjected to labour like scrubbing floors during the final stages of pregnancy and were described as ‘fallen’ and stigmatised.

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The research report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland at Stormont following its publication (Liam McBurney/PA)

The research report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland at Stormont following its publication (Liam McBurney/PA)

The research report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene laundries in Northern Ireland at Stormont following its publication (Liam McBurney/PA)

Victims of rape and incest were put in homes for unmarried mothers and their children in Northern Ireland, a report revealed.

Women claimed they were subjected to labour like scrubbing floors during the final stages of pregnancy and were described as “fallen” and stigmatised.

Some survivors are pressing for a speedy public inquiry but there are concerns surrounding the impact on some who suffered life-changing trauma of giving evidence.

More than 10,500 women and girls entered mother and baby homes over a 68-year period from 1922.

The youngest was aged 12.

A “victim-centred” independent investigation was ordered by Stormont ministers and should be completed within six months.

First Minister Arlene Foster pledged the voices of survivors would be heard “loudly and clearly”.

She added: “It was not their fault that they were raped or the victims of incest yet they were the ones who suffered and it appears to me that those who perpetrated the crime went scot-free.”

Around a third of those admitted were aged under 19 and most were from 20-29.

A research report into operation of the institutions published on Tuesday examined eight mother and baby homes, a number of former workhouses and four Magdalene laundries, the leader of Northern Ireland’s devolved administration said.

Mrs Foster said: “It is with huge regret that we acknowledge the pain of those experiences and the hurt caused to women and girls who did nothing more than be pregnant outside of marriage, some of them criminally against their will.

“None of us should be proud of how our society shunned women in these circumstance and of their experiences while resident in these institutions.”

Adele, 69, was sent to the Marianvale home in Newry as a teenager after becoming pregnant.

“We need the Executive to step up and address this issue very promptly,” she told the PA news agency.

“The women are becoming much older and have many and varied health issues, and the long it goes on, many will die.

“We need an open and transparent public inquiry, very much led by the survivors.”

Around 4% of babies were either stillborn or died shortly after birth across the entire period, the independent report ordered by Stormont ministers said.

An estimated 32% of infants were sent to baby homes following separation from their birth mother.

Other babies were boarded out, fostered in today’s terms.

Others (around a quarter of babies) were placed for adoption.

Retired senior police officer Judith Gillespie led the review, said survivors would finally have control over their own choices.

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Adele, 69, was sent to the Marianvale home in Newry as a teenager after becoming pregnant (Niall Carson/PA).

Adele, 69, was sent to the Marianvale home in Newry as a teenager after becoming pregnant (Niall Carson/PA).

PA

Adele, 69, was sent to the Marianvale home in Newry as a teenager after becoming pregnant (Niall Carson/PA).

Ms Gillespie said: “There are questions around consent regarding adoption, questions around cross-border adoptions and certainly big questions around mortality rates of infants taken to be adopted or taken away from the mother in these institutions, and we do not know what the outcomes were.”

The research was undertaken by a team of academics from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University.

It gives an account of individual and collective experiences of the institutions and highlights the need for further examination of a number of important issues, including adoption and infant mortality rates.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the report gave a “sad and troubling” insight into the lived experiences of the thousands of women and girls, and their now adult children, who suffered in these institutions.

“The harsh treatment of these women was cruel, unjust and inhumane.

“As a mummy, my heart breaks for the women and girls who did no wrong, whose rights were ignored and whose children were so cruelly taken from their arms.

“For those children who never knew their mothers, who for too long have been kept in the dark.

“They were failed on every level and we cannot allow them to be failed any longer.”

PA


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