THE MOTHER AND baby home report and the government’s response is beginning to look like “a sham, an insult and a whitewash”, according to People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett.
Boyd Barrett, who was born in a mother-and-baby scheme, told the Taoiseach today that some of his comments yesterday sought to diminish the responsibility of the State and the Church and place it on society as a whole.
Speaking yesterday afternoon following the publication of the long-awaited final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, Micheál Martin said it “opens a window into a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland” and sheds light on a “dark, difficult and shameful chapter”.
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 regime described in the report wasn’t imposed on us by any foreign power,” the Taoiseach said yesterday.
We did this ourselves as a society, we treated women exceptionally badly, we treated children exceptionally badly. 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.”
During the first Leaders’ Questions of the year, Martin said he is concerned his statement yesterday is being presented in a certain light.
Martin said his remarks at Government Buildings yesterday “in no way sought to diminish the role of the church or the state. I spoke about the perverse moral code overseen church that in my view is responsible for this, in terms of its attitude to sexual morality”.
He said this was at the heart of forcing women and mothers into mother and baby homes.
“I equally believe the State failed what happened was shameful and shocking,” he said.
— Richard Boyd Barrett (@RBoydBarrett) January 13, 2021
Boyd Barrett also took issue with the report itself, stating that some sections “displace blame and responsibility from the institutions of the Church and State and somehow disperse them on “society as a whole”.
“Some of the passages in this report are offensive,” said Boyd Barrett.
“I’m sorry to say it, some of the phrases in the executive summary are unacceptable and frankly they should be withdrawn,” he said.
Every single woman who went into these homes were in prison, he said, adding that it was sanctioned by local authorities at the time.
Addressing a previous issue raised with the Taoiseach, housing, Martin said his party has been responsible for delivering housing since the 1930s.
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Boyd Barrett told the Taoiseach that he hopes he will be as quick to take responsibility on behalf of his party who were in power for much of the time that women were in mother and baby homes.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said those in power outsourced their responsibility to the religious orders. She said the idea that we did this to ourselves is “deeply insulting to victims and survivors, and it is frankly a cop out”.
She said it was was an abuse of power, and an abuse of authority that was a brutality inflicted upon women and girls.
Labour’s Alan Kelly said the religious institutions must pay into the redress, telling the Dáil that if there is no contribution forthcoming from religious institutions he will personally draft legislation ensure it is taken from them.