WATERFORD TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh has called for victims and survivors to be placed “first and foremost” as the Mother and Baby Homes Commission Report was published on January 12.
“Many people will be aware of some of the stories which have formed the basis for the report but they would not be familiar with the details which are being released as part of the report,” he said.
Mr Ó Cathasaigh said it would be especially relevant for people in Waterford given that the Good Shepherd Convent was one of the institutions involved.
He said there will be “many Waterford people affected by the launch of this report.”
“There will be victims who passed through the Good Shepherd and also victims who now reside in Waterford but who will have passed through another institution. There will be extended families who have lost loved ones who passed through an institution as either a mother or a baby and the launch of this report will reopen wounds for them,” Mr Ó Cathasaigh said.
Speaking about the leak of elements of the report to the media, Mr Ó Cathasaigh said he thought the victims and survivors “should have been the first to have seen the content of this report.”
“I am both angry and disappointed that someone chose to release this information before the victims and survivors read it and I welcome the news that Minister O’Gorman has started an investigation into how such sensitive details from the report came into the public domain,” he said.
The main findings of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission report were:
- 56,000 women were incarcerated, some as young as 12
- Approximately 9,000 infants died in these homes, around 15% of all those who entered the institutions, and many of whom died before their first birthdays in the 1930s and 1940s
- Mother and baby homes accounted for 39.6% of deaths of ‘illegitimate’ children in the years 1946-55
- While there were ‘no findings’ of widespread physical abuse, there were testimonies given by women who survived the homes of beatings and brutality
- Ireland had the world’s highest proportion of women incarcerated in these homes in the 20th century
- The report placed the majority of responsibility for the harsh treatment of unmarried mothers on “their own immediate families” and the fathers of the children, but said they were supported and condoned by the State and church
- The report said there was no evidence women were “forced” to enter the homes but said many of them had “no alternative”
- It said there was some evidence of physical abuse of children “which, while unacceptable, was minor in comparison to the evidence of physical abuse documented in the Ryan report.” It found no evidence of any sexual abuse of children.
- The report said some pregnancies were the result of rape, some women had mental health issues or intellectual disabilities, but the main difference between women outside the homes and those in the homes was that they were unmarried.
Some of the recommendations of the report included:
- Adopted people should have a right to their birth certificates and birth information
- The women should be considered for financial redress
- The Government should consider a fund for current disadvantaged children
– A new webpage with information specifically for former residents of Mother and Baby Homes has been set up at: https://tinyurl.com/mbhsupport
– Additional mental health supports provided by the HSE are also available to former residents: https://www2.hse.ie/mental-health/