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Ireland ‘must face up to the past,’ Taoiseach says on release of report into the of abuse of unwed mothers

IRELAND “must face up to the full truth of our past,” Taoiseach Micheal Martin said today as a long-awaited report recounted decades of harm done by church-run homes for unmarried women and their babies.

Mr Martin said young women and their children had paid a heavy price for Ireland’s “perverse religious morality” in past decades.

“We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy. Young mothers and their sons and daughters paid a terrible price for that dysfunction,” he said.

The final report of an inquiry into the mother-and-baby homes said that 9,000 children died in 18 different mother and baby homes during the 20th century.

Fifteen percent of all children born in the homes died, almost double the nationwide infant mortality rate.

The institutions have been subject to intense public scrutiny since  2014, when historian Catherine Corless tracked down death certificates for nearly 800 children who died at the former Bon Secours mother-and-baby home in Tuam, County Galway – but could only find a burial record for one child.

Investigators later found a mass grave containing the remains of babies and young children in an underground sewage structure in the grounds of the home, which was run by an order of Catholic nuns and closed in 1961.

The last of Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes remained open until the late 1990s.

In a statement last weekend, campaigner Philomena Lee, whose three-year-old son was put up for adoption by the church without her consent in the 1950s, said that she had eagerly awaited this moment for decades.

“It is essential that the Irish state and various churches involved in the enslavement of unmarried mothers and the trading of their children would apologise without reservation and would compensate the many generations of families who have suffered unbearable suffering and loss as a result of the state’s failure to recognise and honour the  equality promised to all Irish citizens by the state’s founders,” Ms Lee said.  

“I can only hope that the authors of this report recognise these facts and that those of us who were detained against our wills … are not all of the mothers nor all of the children who have suffered … the same fate, the unlawful destruction of their families, through forced adoption, child trafficking, forced labour, etc.”

The Clann Project, a campaigning organisation seeking justice for the women and children separated by the mother-and-baby homes, is calling on Ireland’s government and church hierarchies to apologise and acknowledge their culpability.

Clann also recommends that the government give the adoptees unconditional access to records, redress and reparations, while also creating a dedicated criminal justice unit for the victims.

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