Former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, said the report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes showed the Catholic Church was "most complicit" in what happened.

"The Church was most complicit, alongside a subservient State," she told RTÉ's Brendan O'Connor programme.

She said the commission's report showed how "easy it was to sacrifice women and children to narrow, ludicrous notions of sexual morality.

"All the Christian churches are implicated in the report but the Catholic Church imposed a culture of fear among uneducated people.

"It told them emphatically that, through baptism, they were obliged to obey the teaching of their church and remain members of that church for life.

"So from day one, their right to information was curtailed as well as their freedom of opinion - they had to be obedient to the bishops."

Ms McAleese said the Church's teaching remains unchanged to this day. "The difference is we are more educated now and we can argue back.

"People know their rights and they know they can walk away from the Church."

She said the Church still wielded huge power in Ireland through the education system with 90% of primary pupils and 60% of secondary students attending Catholic schools.

"We need a discussion with our educators and with the Church as to how children's rights to freedom of belief can be fully respected from when they enter those education systems."

Ms McAleese said she was "pleasantly surprised" with the apologies from the bishops and the Bon Secours nuns following the mother-and-baby homes report.

"There was an attempt at honesty and acceptance of responsibility from them."

She said the report had tremendous compassion.

"It tells us a lot about our history and our past and recommendations about where we need to get to."


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Dr Conor O'Mahony, director of the Child Law Clinic at UCC, said he would agree with the Attorney General that a referendum is not needed to grant adoptees the right to access their birth certs.

"We are waiting to see how conditional or non conditional that position is because two of his predecessors had indicated that there would need to be certain preconditions [to any legislation]."

These preconditions included that an undertaking would have to be given not to contact a birth parent who did not want to be contacted, he told RTÉ's Saturday with Katie Hannon.

"Survivors objected to this, they said this is our information and we should not have to sign a legal undertaking to get it," he said.

Dr O'Mahony also said it had been suggested that birth parents could go to court to object if they did not want a birth cert to be provided.

"This was another hurdle being placed in the way of adopted people to access their records."

He said just because you get access to a birth cert, "it does not tell you where that person is now living". Contact information would not be provided unless the birth parent consented.

He said the Department of Children was exploring different options for legislation. 

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, said intensive work was under way on this but there was a need to get it right and take all the concerns of those involved on board so "we are not coming back with half baked legislation".

Kathleen Funchion, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Children, said all adopted people should have access to their birth certs.

She said as chair of the Oireachtas Children's Committee, she would be open to the idea of survivors of mother-and-baby homes telling their stories to that committee.

Dr O'Mahony said he would like to see an Oireachtas committee overseeing whatever redress scheme was formulated because the State's track record in this area was "appalling".

He said survivors needed to have an input into it and the process has to be transparent.
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the commission's report dismissed the witnesses who "painfully went through the process of telling their story".

"It repeatedly says there is no evidence of abuse or forced adoption. It's insult on top of injury and should be rejected in its entirety," she said.