The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the publication of the mother-and-baby homes report describes a dark, difficult and shameful chapter of very recent Irish history with real and lasting consequences for many people.
He said today marks a significant day in the history of this State for both survivors and their families.
Speaking at Government Buildings, the Taoiseach said he understands how much the production of this report has been a cause of both anticipation and both apprehension for so many of you.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin says that the mother-and-baby homes report describes "a dark, difficult and shameful chapter of very recent Irish history" | https://t.co/Gt1ht2bazS pic.twitter.com/2cVWu00vth— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 12, 2021
The Cabinet published the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes this afternoon.
Mr Martin said the report makes harrowing reading, but he appreciates the depth of bravery of the survivors who shared their history.
He said it opens a window to a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland over several decades with serious and systematic discrimination against women, especially those who gave birth outside marriage.
Mr Martin said: "The regime described in the report wasn't imposed on us, by any foreign power. We did this to ourselves as a society."
"We treated women exceptionally badly, we treated children exceptionally badly," he said.
Taoiseach following publication of mother-and-baby homes report: "We did this to ourselves as a society. We treated women exceptionally badly, we treated children exceptionally badly" | https://t.co/Gt1ht2bazS pic.twitter.com/AisEWpO5WU— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 12, 2021
He said 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.
Mr Martin said that as a society we embraced judgemental, moral certainty, a perverse religious morality and control which was so damaging.
He said this system was supported by, contributed to and condoned by the institutions of the State and the Churches. He said in so many of the testimonies, priests, nuns and doctors loom large.
The report follows a five-year investigation into the lives of women and children in 18 institutions during the period of 1922 and 1998.
The report is a culmination of the commission's findings on practices and procedures in 14 mother-and-baby homes and four county homes over a 76-year period.
Meanwhile, following on the leaking of some details from the report to a Sunday newspaper last weekend, the Cabinet agreed today that the Secretary General to Government will be asked to examine how this happened.
He has also been asked to examine the broader issue of unauthorised dissemination of documentation and other information related to the work of Cabinet sub-committees and the Cabinet.
Living conditions in the institutions and mortality of mothers and babies were among the issues examined, as well as post-mortem practices, vaccine trials conducted on children, illegal adoption and social attitudes.
The report also includes the personal testimonies of those who were in the institutions.
The report has been distributed to survivors and is now available to the wider public. The full report can be read here.
The Taoiseach acknowledged the "critical role" played by historian Catherine Coreless, who he described as "a crusader for the truth" and whose actions led to the establishment of the Commission of Investigation.
He said it led to an independent, comprehensive account of the institutions under investigation and that the production of the report is testament to the "bravery of survivors and advocates".
Taoiseach Micheál Martin: "I particularly want to acknowledge the critical role played by Catherine Corless, a tireless crusader for dignity and truth, whose work at the Tuam mother-and-baby home site, led to the establishment of this commission" | https://t.co/Gt1ht2bazS pic.twitter.com/LgXVFAOtE7— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 12, 2021
However, Ms Corless said she is disappointed by today's report. She said she had hoped that survivors would get some idea of what would follow after the publication of the report.
But she said instead they got a lot of "political lingo", with the Government "glossing over" what went on in the homes investigated.
This morning, Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman brought the long-awaited report to Cabinet.
Speaking at Government Buildings this afternoon, Mr O'Gorman described the Commission's report as harrowing and makes clear that they were places of "callousness, brutality and shame".
He said the Government has accepted its recommendations and in response will be taking 22 individual actions, with a survivor-centred approach.
Reflecting on the number of children who died in the homes, almost 9,000, he said accounts for 15% of all children.
"It is difficult to conceive the scale of tragedy and heartbreak behind that figure."
Minister Roderic O'Gorman describes the mother-and-baby homes report as harrowing and makes clear that they were places of "callousness, brutality and shame" | https://t.co/Gt1ht2bazS pic.twitter.com/QQ9unhSgTY— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 12, 2021
Mr O'Gorman said legislation to allow for the dignified exhumation of the site in Tuam and identification of bodies will be passed through the Dáil and Seanad this year.
He said a national memorial centre and public access to State files relevant to the research of the investigation are also part of the plans.
Mr O'Gorman said the publication of this report is the start of a "new type of engagement" saying they will not shy away from what happened.
He said he has written to the relevant religious orders to see if they are going to make an apology and is also finding out about the provision of their records.
He also thinks it would be appropriate that a signification contribution comes from them.
Regarding the redress scheme, he said the Commission makes recommendation regarding certain groups of both mothers and children that it believes should qualify.
He said the Government will set up an inter-departmental group, and consider the recommendations and also the wider issue of what is the correct categorisation of people who should receive redress.
Mr Martin said the planned redress scheme will be a survivor-first led approach.
He said the State is committing to look at how it can develop a restorative recognition scheme.
Recommendations are to be brought forward before Cabinet by 30 April.
A State apology is scheduled to be given by the Taoiseach in the Dáil tomorrow, but it could be postponed following discussions with survivors today.
Today is about listening to voices that were silenced, says Madigan
The Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan said today is about respectfully and humbly listening to voices that were ignored or silenced for many years - the voices of the women and their children, now adults.
Ms Madigan said the report refers to ad hoc and unregulated systems of adoption and of a society that preferred not to know.
She said the high infant mortality rates were known to local and national authorities but with little evidence that politicians or the public were concerned about conditions in these homes.
"This sort of moral superiority depriving women of agency and freedom is reflective of an infantilising, discriminatory attitude towards women that was prevalent," she said.
She questioned where all the fathers were and why did they abandon their children so callously.
Ms Madigan said the Government is committed to providing the financial and emotional support and access to necessary information.
The Minister of State at the Department of Children Anne Rabbitte has said it is "without a shadow of a doubt, a brutal, gruesome and horrifying document".
She said with such widespread abuse, there is not one root of these violations.
She said the religious organisations are high on the list of accountability, "who cultivated a culture of indignity and committed so many atrocities to women and children in particular".