RH, Corcaigh, on behalf of Ard Comhairle, 20/01/21
The Final Commission Report on the mother and baby homes was published January 12, 2021 and it seems the dust has already settled.
The report details an “appalling level of infant mortality at mother and baby homes” .
The commission covered only 18 of the approximate 100 institutions but found that 1 in 7 children born in these institutions died,which was twice the infant mortality rate of the general population.
With news of the death of 9000 infants we must ask ourselves, who is to blame?
The church maintains that they should not be made to accept all blame for these homes, even though they were run by the church. Many of the former institutions have released apologies and upheld the idea of reparations, while others have defended the abuse they brought upon these vulnerable young women.
The church defends itself by telling us of how undesirable these women were to society at the time, that they were merely caring for women unwanted by their communities. It is framed as an act of charity, of benevolence. Beatings, withholding medical care, and selling children to catholic families is not benevolence.
The church blames the women, they blame their families, they blame the state, anything to avoid responsibility. Archbishop Eamon Martin says the church should not be “scapegoated” for the levels of abuse and trauma endured within these institutions and that the state commissioned these institutions. While these comments contributed to the deep anger felt by many, perhaps he is not entirely wrong.
The state played an undeniable role in supporting and defending these institutions where girls as young as 12 were forced to have their babies in secret, alone and afraid. These homes were commissioned and inspected by local authorities, and run by the church.
What we can conclude is that both the church and the state must bear the burden, they propped each other up, loaned each other power, and enabled one another to commit these atrocities.
Both the church and state have offered milquetoast apologies but it simply isn’t good enough.
Moving forward we must listen to the voices of survivors. Many survivors felt the report was a fluff piece at best that failed to recognise the levels of physical and sexual abuse in the homes, while others felt it did not go far enough in establishing criminal responsibility on behalf of both the church and the state. They have called for a state run redress scheme to be contributed to by the church, and if the church refuses they demand church assets be seized until they do so.
The main call on the part of survivors is to give children who were illegally adopted access to their birth records and personal information. This simple request is currently being denied by the state.
In recent years we have seen that the disdain for single mothers has not altogether disappeared. They endure humiliating means testing for social welfare payments, with social welfare officers showing up to their homes and searching their belongings for evidence of a secret man in the house.
Neither the church nor the free state has ever been a friend to single mothers.
The Connolly Youth Movement pledges to listen to survivors and follow their lead on what is to be done.