THE LEADER OF the Catholic Church in Ireland has “unreservedly” apologised to the survivors of mother and baby homes following the publication of the long-awaited final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission.
Archbishop Eamon Martin said he accepts that the Church was clearly part of that culture in which people were “frequently stigmatised, judged and rejected”.
“For that, and for the long-lasting hurt and emotional distress that has resulted, I unreservedly apologise to the survivors and to all those who are personally impacted by the realities it uncovers,” Martin said in a statement issued this evening.
Martin called on all those who are in positions of leadership in the Church to study the report carefully and “identify, accept and respond to the broader issues which the Report raises about our past, present and future”.
The report details the experiences of women and children who lived in 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes – a sample of the overall number of homes – between 1922 and 1998. It confirms that about 9,000 children died in the 18 homes under investigation – about 15% of all the children who were in the institutions.
The key recommendations from the report include a State apology, redress and that access to their birth information should be given to survivors of mother and baby homes.
Archbishop Martin urged the State to ensure that any remaining obstacles to information and tracing should be overcome as ” the rights of all survivors to access personal information about themselves should be fully respected”.
He also asked that anyone with further information about burial places come forward.
“All burial grounds should be identified and appropriately marked so that the deceased and their families will be recognized and never be forgotten,” he said.
This report will stir many emotions as it further uncovers disturbing and painful truths about our past. I commend those who have fought to have this story told and I thank those who have already been supporting survivors through various organisations and providing a platform for their voices to be heard.
Martin’s apology on behalf of the Church follows comments made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin earlier today, who said that religious organisations should make an apology to survivors and also “make a contribution” towards a redress scheme.
A number of religious orders responded to the report this evening, welcoming its publication.
When it comes to redress, the Commission’s report says that redress “can be financial or can be in the form of enhanced services” and states that any decision on financial redress is “a matter for government”.
The report also notes that the State has previously paid out compensation to the survivors of industrial institutions and Magdalene Laundries.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said this afternoon that the government is to set up an inter-departmental group which will “consider the recommendations from the commission and the wider issue of what is the correct categorisation of those who should who should receive redress.”
Asked whether religious organisations should contribute to a redress fund, O’Gorman said it would be “appropriate that there is a significant contribution from religious organisations towards the State’s Restorative Recognition Scheme.”
The minister said he would wish to speak to the organisations first to “discuss their willingness initially” before speculating on how much religious organisations could contribute.
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The Taoiseach also said that church organisations should contribute to the redress scheme.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme this evening, retired Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said that “people who performed acts of harshness are the ones who have to take the responsibility”.
Asked about redress, Martin said: “I think that’s going to be an interdepartmental commission and I think that these are better done in setting out the program than coming back to it.”