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Pay your share to compensate victims, Martin urges Church

Taoiseach calls on religious orders involved in the scandal to help finance redress scheme


Micheal Martin

Micheal Martin

Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called on the religious orders associated with mother and baby homes in Ireland to make a "financial contribution" to a redress scheme for survivors.

The homes were for mothers who fell pregnant out of wedlock but produced high levels of infant mortality, misogyny and stigmatisation of some of society's most vulnerable. Many were run by Catholic nuns.

An investigation by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes found almost 9,000 children died, approximately 15% of all youngsters who were in the institutions.

Yesterday's report has now been sent to the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions for review.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Taoiseach said the Garda can "obviously" pursue some of the issues outlined in the commission's investigation even though a significant length of time has elapsed.

He specifically highlighted that many of the women in the homes were under the age of consent when they became pregnant. The Taoiseach will today make a State apology in the Dáil to the survivors of the homes.

Yesterday Mr Martin said the investigation into 18 institutions for unmarried mothers opened up a window to the "deeply misogynistic" culture in Ireland, where there was "serious, systematic discrimination against women".

"We did this to ourselves as a society," said Mr Martin, before adding: "We treated women exceptionally badly. We treated children exceptionally badly."

Last night, the head of the Catholic church in Ireland apologised. Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said the church was clearly part of a culture in which people were frequently stigmatised, judged and rejected.

He added: "For that, and for the long-lasting hurt and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologise to the survivors and to all those who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers."

Ireland's senior cleric said the church should acknowledge sustaining what the commission report described as a harsh, cold and uncaring atmosphere.

The shocking report said that the Irish Free State, and later the Republic, had more women and children living in State-run homes for unmarried mothers than anywhere else in the world.

It also found that 56,000 women were forced to live in refuges since the foundation of the State in 1922 because they were abandoned by the fathers of their children and their families.

The more than five-year investigation led by Justice Yvonne Murphy found the responsibility for the "harsh treatment" endured by these women "rests mainly with the fathers of their children and their own immediate families", but was also supported by the State and Church.

"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," the report adds.

The harrowing report details how 57,000 children were born in mother and baby homes until they were closed in 1998. Shockingly, 9,000 died in their care.

Of even more concern is the death rate among children deemed "illegitimate" by society was far higher than those deemed "legitimate", according to the report.

Between 1945 and 1946 the death rate among children in the homes was almost twice the national average of those outside these institutions. The report reveals the high infant mortality rates were known to the authorities at the time and were recorded in official publications. Children suffered physical abuse in the homes and also emotional abuse from local residents.

However, the report does not find incidents of sexual abuse towards the children.

Belfast Telegraph