Some 9,000 children died in Ireland’s “mother and baby homes”, where unmarried mothers were routinely separated from their infant offspring, according to an official report published Tuesday.
Ireland’s Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes (CIMBH) found “disquieting” levels of infant mortality at the institutions, which operated in the historically Catholic nation as recently as 1998.
Studying such homes over a 76-year period through 1998, the CIMBH determined that 9,000 children died in them, or 15 percent of those who passed through.
The homes — run by religious orders and the Irish state — housed unmarried women who became pregnant, were unsupported by partners and family and faced severe social stigma.
Children born in the institutions would often be separated from their mothers and put up for adoption, severing all family ties.
Prime minister Micheal Martin said the CIMBH report “opens a window onto a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland over several decades”.
“We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy, and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for that dysfunction,” he added.
Martin — who will make an official state apology on the matter in Irish parliament on Wednesday — said the high infant mortality was “one of the most deeply distressing findings” of the report.
“One harsh truth in all of this is that all of society was complicit in it,” Martin said.
“We are going to need to confront and come to terms with this as a people.”
The CIMBH report covers the period of 1922 to 1998, and outlines how 56,000 unmarried mothers and 57,000 children passed through the homes examined.
The report said women of the period who gave birth outside marriage were “subject to particularly harsh treatment” at the hands of families and partners, backed by both church and state.
Women entered the homes mostly because they had “no alternative” and many suffered “emotional abuse”, it said.
“The atmosphere appears to have been cold and seemingly uncaring. The women and children should not have been in the institutions,” the study said.
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