Irish govt to apologize after inquiry finds ‘appalling infant mortality’ at mother & baby homes run by Catholic Church and state

The Irish government will formally apologize after a new report detailed the pain experienced by unmarried mothers and their children at Church- and local authority-run homes, a minister confirmed on Tuesday.

A “stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture” existed for decades in such institutions, Ireland’s Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, said in a statement released on the publication of the report after an official inquiry into the sites.

The Commission of Investigation said it found an “appalling level of infant mortality” across the homes, with at least 9,000 child deaths.

O’Gorman added that the government would provide financial support to specific people highlighted by the extensive report into the suffering and death rates at the homes.

The passing of a law allowing the exhumation of the remains of children buried at the homes will also be brought forward, he added, and, where possible, they will be identified.

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Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes were set up in the 19th and 20th centuries for women and girls who became pregnant outside of marriage, including victims of sexual assault. The last of the institutions closed in the 1990s.

The terrible conditions at these homes drew global attention after a mass grave of 796 babies’ bodies was discovered at one of the homes in the western Ireland town of Tuam in 2017, following research by a local historian, Catherine Corless.

On Tuesday, the Irish government published a 2,865-page report by the Commission of Investigation into mother-and-baby homes, which looked into the conditions at 18 of the institutions between 1922 and 1998.

It listed multiple failings at some of the homes, including typhoid outbreaks, food that was “unfit for consumption,” and abuse from some of the “inmates,” with one example cited of a mother of two children who became pregnant “apparently by a male ‘inmate.’”

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Mortality rates in mother-and-baby homes were almost twice the national average for illegitimate children in 1945 and 1946, the report stated.

Some 9,000 children died in the institutions – 15 percent of those who lived there – the Commission said, adding that local and national authorities were informed of the high death rates.

Mother-and-baby homes in Tuam and the town of Kilrush are among the worst examples identified in the report, which described the “appalling physical conditions” of the institutions in both areas. 

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